The Mystery of Irma Vep

Michal Daniel

Any show that features Steven Epp wielding a jewel-encrusted jumbo dildo, Bradley Greenwald with pasty-covered D-cup prosthetic breasts, and a mantelpiece painting that bleeds when shot has pretty well declared itself critic-proof. The only question is whether this production of Charles Ludlam's 1984 camp-fest delivers the expected goods, and the answer is a resounding yes. Most of the action occurs in the drawing room of the Hillcrest estate in rural England, where new wife Lady Enid (Greenwald) deals with spooky servants Jane (Epp) and Nicodemus (Greenwald), as well as husband Lord Edgar (Epp), who is obsessed with his late wife Irma. Ludlam's script calls for two actors to take on all these roles in this Victorian horror story, with entrances and exits resulting in dizzying costume changes and no shortage of sleight of hand (director Joel Sass is undeniably in his element here). What follows is an absurd series of calamities involving a vampire, a werewolf, several grisly deaths, and Greenwald's turn as a re-animated topless Egyptian mummy princess. The primary question in a production of this show is whether it will capture the delicate balance between spoof and homage, and here the outsized entertainment is primarily the result of Epp and Greenwald's unflagging energy and willingness to shed all dignity in search of a laugh (while finding such unexpected textures as the sad, lonely Nicodemus's lament of being unloved, moments before he is dispatched to the afterlife). Sass also designs the set, with the drawing room appropriately musty and spooky. After intermission, Epp and Greenwald are in Egypt looking to discover an ancient tomb that looters haven't found (Lord Edgar's interest in Egyptology being unapologetically duct-taped to the plot in order to hit the trifecta of vampire, werewolf, and mummy). The ending is just about right: utter corn and cliché, delivered with an import usually reserved for the deepest of profundities. How better, then, to cap off an entertainment that laughs at itself with such paradoxical earnestness? $28-$36; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays; Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612,822.7063. Through August 1 —Quinton Skinner

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