Strange 'Irma Vep' is a dramatic treat

    Let’s do some math: Take a handful of creatures from B-rate horror flicks, add a house full of superstitious aristocrats, throw in a spiteful housekeeper and a kind-hearted stable boy, multiply all of that by a bit of cross-dressing, and divide your sum by only two actors and over 50 costume changes. Do you have an answer yet? You should have either gotten seven or “”The Mystery of Irma Vep,”” the hilarious murder-mystery/classic fiction conglomeration that is rocking Downtown’s Diversionary Theater.

    Courtesy of http://www.diversionary.com

    Written in 1984, “”The Mystery of Irma Vep”” (playing until Dec. 21) is the most well-known work of Ridiculous Theater founder Charles Ludlum. This production of “”Irma Vep”” features the acting talents of Diversionary veteran David McBean and the San Diego-trained Farhang Pernoon (MFA in drama from San Diego State University) as the only two actors in the eight-character play.

    The play begins with an introduction to the household staff of Nicodemus Underwood (McBean), the kind-hearted, peg-legged stable boy, and Jane Twisden (Pernoon), the malevolent, passive-aggressive housekeeper. It is revealed that the master of the house, Lord Edgar (Pernoon), and his new bride, Lady Enid (McBean), are having marriage troubles because Edgar cannot get over his lingering affection for his deceased first wife — the Lady Irma Vep. Enid is jealous of the dead woman, but is also intrigued when Jane tells her stories of Lady Irma’s mysterious death, as well as of other puzzling happenings concerning werewolves and vampires that occurred in and around Mandarcrest Manor.

    Fueling the antics of the colorful characters of the Hillcrest household are cleverly interwoven allusions and direct quotes from “”Wuthering Heights,”” “”Rebecca,”” James Joyce’s “”Ulysses”” and “”Hamlet,”” among other great works of literature. A section of the opening scene between Nicodemus and Jane is taken directly from Henrick Ibsen’s “”Ghosts.””

    So you think, “”Well, if two characters are played by the same actor, there’s no way they can interact.”” It may be a scientific fact that no single person can be in two different places at once, but through a little bit of theatrical resourcefulness and a bit of ventriloquism, the cast of “”Irma Vep”” does the impossible. Rapid character changes from Lady Enid to Nicodemus to Lady Enid (McBean) and Jane to Lord Edgar to Jane (Pernoon) bring humor and mystery to the work.

    “”The Mystery of Irma Vep”” is chock-full of sidesplitting humor, thoroughly professional and provocative design, fantastic acting and ingenious creativity.

    Friday shows are only $15 for students. Call the Diversionary Theater Box Office at (619) 220-0097, or check out their entire season at http://www.diversionary.org.

    The Mystery of Irma Vep

    Starring David McBean, Farhang Pernoon

    Runs until Dec. 21

    Fridays $15 for students

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