Fans of Charles Ludlam already know what a treasure “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is, but for those who aren’t familiar with the playwright’s work, here’s a piece of advice: buckle up and get ready to have a bumpy, wild, zany, silly, funny, good night!
Now staging at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, the two-man/multi-character show—directed by Kenneth Elliott and staring Tom Aulino and five-time Obie Award-winner David Greenspan—is one quick-change/comedy/mystery-extravaganza. First produced by Mr. Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York, the Drama Desk- and Obie Award-winning play is a satire of several theatrical film and television genres, including Victorian melodrama (on the moors, no less), farce, moody suspense thrillers and over-the-top soap operas.
During a recent interview at Bay Street, the director and the actors—who are all experienced with the material and were “off book” by the second day of rehearsal—professed love for the play. In fact, they all agreed that it’s so expertly written that there are too many “favorite” parts to even pick one.
“It’s a hilarious comedy, and the moments of terror in the play really amuse me,” Mr. Elliot said. “There are many, many moments of high suspense. I love the entire play.
The director said that he’s a big fan of the “ridiculous theater genre,” though mastering the challenges tricks, costume quick-changes and other technical aspects of “Irma Vep” can prove to be daunting. At Bay Street, he’s fortunate to be working with true talent such as Mr. Aulino, Mr. Greenspan, set designer John Arnone and others, he reported.
“The quick-change, when done effectively is dazzling,” he said. “And the sets, which are truly a separate element and character … John Arnone has risen to the challenge beautifully.”
Mr. Aulino, who calls “the complex play” a “great challenge, but great fun,” said that the fast pace and quick costume changes will delight the audience.
“You step onstage in a completely different character, you make the audience gasp,” he said. “It’s meaty, juicy and funny.”
For Mr. Greenspan, it’s the humor and pathos in “Irma Vep” that most interests him.
“I have such overall affection and respect for it, for its wit and intellect,” he said. “It’s impossible to choose just one part.”
“The Mystery of Irma Vep” stages at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor through Sunday, July 28. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Tickets start at $57.50. For reservations, call 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.