The gender- and genre-bending classic The Mystery of Irma Vep, now playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre, combines penny dreadfuls, gothic horror and loads and loads of cross-dressing for a comedy that doesn’t suck.
- The Mystery of Irma Vep
- Through April 14, Thursday-Sunday, times vary, $21-$24.
- Las Vegas Little Theatre, 362-7996.
Written by (and originally starring) the gay icon Charles Ludlam, Vep follows the story of Lady Enid Hillcrest (played by Tony Blosser) as she adapts to life on the English moors after marrying Lord Edgar (Troy Tinker). She’s helped in this by the housemaid Jane (also Tinker) and swineherd Nicodemus (also Blosser). No, those aren’t typos. Two actors play all the roles, including the female parts—cue the cross-dressing, quick changes and camp!
Directed by Troy Heard, this production wastes no opportunity for a cheap gag, though some pay off better than others. (Werewolf peeing on the couch, good; odd way of walking up the stairs in an Egyptian tomb, not so much.) While the tone is set almost immediately (Blosser twirling onstage in a taffeta dress after a quick change is divine) there’s something missing from the chaos, some added zing that would carry this over the top.
I wanted a little more consistency from Blosser and Tinker in their vocal work (it suffered as the play went on and they became more exhausted), and some of the commedia dell’arte-infused bits needed to be more precise. Blosser’s exchange upstage as both the Lady Enid and Nicodemus (two parts he plays) would be a riot if it were cleaned up just a little. On the other hand, the look on Blosser’s face as he played a long-dead Egyptian queen brought back to life in Act 2 was absolutely priceless. As the straight man (or woman) most of the time, Tinker lent his parts the appropriate self-important gravitas, and whole-heartedly threw himself into the fun.
Abby Stroot’s costumes were whimsical and built to last; if some of the seams showed, I suppose that can be forgiven over the 30-some quick changes. Heard leaves no stone unturned in the staging, and the work on this show—from cast and crew—is evident. But the funny, fun show never quite reaches its premise’s heights of effervescent lunacy.