Monday, November 5, 2012

KC Repertory "Mystery of Irma Vep" review by BobEvans

Monsters, Vampires, Stormy Night and Comedy 
Rating: 4

The Mystery of Irma Vep

Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Dust off your liberal arts degrees and remember all those traditional classic novels, and then add in some 20th-Century novels, horror stories, and poetry and you will get an idea of "The Mystery of Irma Vep" produced by KC Rep.

Shades and plot snippets from such novels as "Frankenstein," "Wuthering Heights," and "Jane Eyre" and a touch of Shakespeare, from early English literature mix quite will with modern works, like "Rebecca," "The Raven," "Hound of the Baskervilles," "Curse of the Mummy's Tomb." If that's not enough, throw in vampires, werewolves, a dark stormy night. Mix all those elements together, throw in two seasoned Kansas City actors each playing at least four parts, a madcap quick change extravaganza and you only get a small idea of what to expect in "The Mystery of Irma Vep."

The story is an absurd story that features the two actors changing quickly from character to character, half of which in drag–yes, drag. (Note to local drag queens: You have nothing to fear here). Both men portray both male and female characters that change back and forth in a hilarious display of their acting talents to create separate personalities for all of the characters they play. Of course, the fun occurs when they are both on stage together in their gender bending gags and portrayals. What amazes the audience is that one character exits, only to enter within 30 seconds in a total change of clothing and usually as the opposite gender.

Actors, Ron Megee and Mark Robbins work well with and off each other with their identities constantly shifting and making audiences laugh. And with the "borrowed" plots and similarities with the aforementioned literary works, audience members never know where the story will turn next. No one seeing this show for the first time could possible predict the ending.

Act I takes place in a large mansion where the former lady of the house still dominates the structure with her ominous portrait staring out from above the fireplace, like she's still watching over the place. Jane, the maid, helps fill in the background information, while a gamekeeper, a weak-willed husband, and the insecure second wife spin a yarn that's beyond belief. The whole act keeps audiences giggling and wondering what will happen next.

Act II begins in a faraway land in search of a lost tomb and some new characters to intrigue the audience. Then, scene two moves back to the stately mansion for more madcap adventure and new characters to amaze us. "The Mystery of Irma Vep" keeps audiences smiling and laughing throughout.

If one expects serious theatre, this is not the show for that. Instead, it is a study of how two actors create and perform a myriad of characters in tandem while delivering smiles and laughter. People who like to go to the theatre to laugh and just sit back and be entertained will enjoy this production. Those who want light or heavy drama will not appreciate the show. Those who just bring an open mind and sit back to watch the show unfold will enjoy the experience.

The sets are great. The costumes, sound, lighting, effects, projection, props, stage management, directions all contribute to an enjoyable outcome. Those who appreciate an evening of theatre will enjoy this.

As for age appropriateness, the show is probably PG-13. It has some language possibly not appropriate for younger children. The content and sexual innuendo are not strong and are in good fun. Younger children would not catch the gay shtick – and it's mostly light stuff, nothing bad.

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