Monday, April 28, 2014

Review - The Mystery of Irma Vep

A darling, devastatingly handsome friend gave me the gift of theater for my birthday, but our schedules have been so busy, we hadn't been able to coordinate.  Happily, yesterday, he and I caught the matinee of The Mystery of Irma Vep at the Lucille Lortel Theater.

I've seen Irma Vep a couple of times - I caught the Off-Broadway revival from about
fifteen years ago and adored it.  I also saw a production in San Francisco starring a dear college chum and also adored that one.  Irma Vep is just such a theatrical joy, with so much brio and tour de force performances and it spoofs all my favorite kinds of movies.  I guess you could say this play is totally in my wheelhouse.

I had a grand time again yesterday, laughing and smiling nearly the whole way through, although I have to admit the play dragged just the tiniest bit here and there.  I don't remember that happening the other times I saw it, so I guess it could've been a combination of my always knowing what was coming next, or maybe because it was the end of an eight-show-week, or...who knows?  I'm not saying I didn't have fun again, because I most certainly did.  I laughed loudly and happily throughout.  I guess maybe my memory of the play being continually side-splittingly funny could be an exaggeration.

photo credit: Carol Rosegg
Robert Sella and Arnie Burton comprise the entire cast and they each play several roles beautifully.  Each character is their own person, with distinct vocal and comic characteristics.  Burton's Lady Enid is a charming ingenue - a former actress who always enters a room as if she's taking bows, and Sella's Lord Edgar is the virile lord of the manor.  That they both also play the gamekeeper and the maid (along with other various comic inventions along the way) is just a testament to the crackerjack writing and supple comedic timing of the company. 
Seriously, if I live to be 100, I will never get tired of watching two of Burton's characters have a conversation with each other (a strategically placed door and quick wig work make this SO funny) and seeing one character exit stage right and enter stage left, seemingly in only a second, is just a wonderful reminder of how magical theater can be.  Lots of the directorial choices were also inspired - I was especially tickled by the way everyone fell asleep instantly when opening Lord Edgar's book about Egypt; oh, and how one character pulled a lit cigarette out from under his fez to smoke; oh, and Sella's drunk scene was comic perfection. 

Oh, poo, don't even bother with my silly quibble above.  I had a great time, laughed a lot, and again appreciated Charles Ludlam and his inspired theatrical lunacy.  Everyone, go go go.  A good laugh now and then does everyone a world of good.
 As a postscript, I took myself out to dinner after the show - I went to AOC on Bleeker.  There was hardly anyone there (I was there between the lunch and dinner crowds, I think), so I had everyone's full attention.  I ordered a glass of cotes du rhone and the coq au vin.  Delightful.  Both were rich and luscious, but not overpowering.  Thumbs way up.  I'm also going to include at the bottom some photos from my recent walks around town - it has been so nice to enjoy little sunny weather now and then... :)


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