Last night I dreamed I went to Mandacrest again, where I was seduced by a sarcophagus and chased by a night monster with the blood lust of a savage beast.
But it wasn't a dream at all. It was just “The Mystery of Irma Vep” at Kitchen Theatre Company in Ithaca.
This wildly entertaining play dresses Gothic film lore in new clothes – or more accurately, cross-dresses it. This romp through “Rebecca,” “The Mummy’s Curse,” “The Wolf Man” and finally “Jane Eyre” requires numerous costume changes because just two male actors play all the men and women in the play, which number around eight.
The play opens at Mandacrest where Lady Enid has just married Lord Edgar, but fears the housekeeper's dislike. Before you know it, the play is in Egypt on one of Lord Edgar's excavation adventures, then back to Mandacrest to track down a werewolf. It's as ridiculous as it sounds.
Jesse Bush and Tony Roach wind up their comedic yarn and throw it back out again, changing costumes and characters with such ease, you might occasionally forget Lady Enid is also Nicodemus, but if you forget their knowing glances and fourth-wall shattering will be quick to remind you.
In five seconds or less, Bush transforms from conniving, sinister high-pitched housemaid Jane Twisden to the baritone, dashing though mildly effeminate Lord Edgar Hillcrest. Roach’s Lady Enid is both ridiculous and charming, reminiscent of the pathetic, pitiable protagonist of a Bronte novel.
This play points to theater’s inherent absurdities, with the actors at one point demanding the audience stand up to allow them to pass through the row.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable night at the theater, “Irma Vep” is sure to please.