In “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” author Charles Ludlam satirizes Gothic romance novels, pulp fiction, and horror movies. But he doesn’t stop there. With two actors playing eight different roles and changing costumes 35 times, Ludlam is also laughing at the entire craft of theatrical production. The plot is borrowed from Gothic romances such as Daphne de Maurier’s “Rebecca”and Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” with fantastic characters from “penny dreadful” fiction and “C” rated movies tossed in.
All of the roles (male and female) are played by Raina Bass and Diane Mitchell, with a little help from a mysterious “third man,” actor Jason Lindsey.
“I would say this play is a spoof on the whole idea of melodrama,” said Mitchell. “It’s completely ridiculous, funny, and sinister. By the way, ‘Irma Vep’ is an anagram for ‘vampire’.”
“This is the first time any theater has been given the legal rights to produce this play with two female leads,” said Director Jared Wright. “Charles Ludham wrote it to be performed by himself and another man. He has since passed away. But I think he would be very proud of what we are making of it. Interpreted from a woman’s perspective, small details are coming out that haven’t been noticed in previous productions.”
As in “Rebecca,” the original mistress of the house has died under mysterious circumstances. The current mistress of the house, Lady Enid, is being attacked by werewolves, vampires, the living dead, the curse of the Druids, and then some Egyptian mummies– all while making you laugh.
“You’ll have to come and see the play to find out what happens,” said Mitchell. “There are a lot of twists in the plot.”
“As a matter of fact, we are of the opinion that people should come see it twice just to fully understand the plot,” added Bass.
Raina Bass discovered her acting talents right here at NTC when she landed a role in “Twentieth Century” in 2011.
Though Diane Mitchell has been in theater for only four years, “Irma Vep” will be her 20th show. NTC audiences will remember her hilarious performance as Lilly Garland in “Twentieth Century,” but most of her experience has been at Southside Theatre Guild, which is where she got her start.
“I love comedy – it’s my favorite genre,” said Mitchell. “The more I can make people laugh, the happier I am. When Director Jared Wright told me about the show, I had to come and audition. I am so thrilled to be on stage with Raina again. We’re having so much fun.”
Director Jared Wright, who has a degree in theater from Jacksonville State University in Alabama, has been singing and acting most of his life.
“The Mystery of Irma Vep” opens at Newnan Theatre Company on October 24 and runs through November 3. Ticket prices are $8 for children, $12 for seniors and students, and $14 for adults.
To purchase tickets, visit Newnan Theatre Company’s web site at http://www.newnantheatre.org or visit the box office before or after any performance. The theatre is located in historic downtown Newnan at 24 First Avenue.