'The Mystery of Irma Vep'

It was zany in 1991 and 1996 when Oregon Cabaret Theatre staged the two-person comic romp, "The Mystery of Irma Vep" by Charles Ludlam. In a recent survey of Cabaret patrons, the show was one of the top two most-requested shows. In a nod to its patrons, the cabaret is bringing back the parody of Gothic suspense films.

The show will open at 8 p.m. Friday, April 10, at the cabaret, First and Hargadine streets in Ashland. The show will run at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays with 1 p.m. brunch matinees on Sundays through May 31. There will be a preview performance at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 9, for $19.

"I'm surprised the first time how popular it was with general audiences," said Oregon Cabaret artistic director Jim Giancarlo. "You don't have to be a movie buff. He captured it so well."

Once again a peg-legged servant will clomp down the halls of Mandacrest. A werewolf will howl menacingly from the moors. And Lord Edgar will arrive with his new bride, Lady Enid, while a vigil light still flickers in front of a portrait of his first wife, Lady Irma.

"Part of what's funny is how serious they are about what they're doing," Giancarlo said. The show is a campy and loving send up of the old mystery films like "Jane Eyre," "Rebecca," and "Gaslight."

"The '40s were all about psychology," Giancarlo said. "People were fascinated about the unconscious."

Pat Patton directs. This is the second show he has directed for the cabaret. The first was another two-person tour de force, "Greater Tuna," back in 1988.

"There were more quick changes in that one," Patton recalled.

Patton is known to local audiences for decades of productions as both actor and director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He recently directed "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" for the Southern Oregon University Department of Theatre Arts.

"We have a lot of fun talking about telling a story," Patton said. "We wanted to make 'Irma Veep' a mystery and not just goofiness."

Playing the roles of Lord Edgar, Jane Twisden, Mysterious Intruder and Irma Vep is Douglas Reynolds. He is a graduate of SOU, where he appeared in the theater department's productions of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Of Mice and Men" "Twelfth Night" and "Entertaining Strangers."

Playing the roles of Lady Enid, Nicodemus Underwood, Alcazar and Pev Amri is Christopher Bange of Seattle. A graduate of Western Washington University and the Dell'Arte School of Physical Theater, Bange is an actor and a trained clown. He has appeared at many Northwest theatres, including Spokane Interplayers, Seattle Public Theatre, Idaho Repertory Theatre and Bellevue Civic Theatre.

"The Mystery of Irma Veep" is staged often. Ludlam, who died young of AIDS, still has quite a following in American theater. He starred in the original production of "Irma Vep" at the Ridiculous Theatre Company (New York City) in 1984.

"People credit the Ridiculous Theatre Company with starting the Off-Broadway movement," Giancarlo said.

The show's set design is by Craig Hudson and Michael Halderman, costume design by Kerri Lea Robbins, lighting design by Craig Hudson, sound design by Tom Freeman, wig design by Victoria King, and prop design by Roxanna Clover. Kathleen Mahoney is the stage manager.

Tickets are $19-$31 and are available at the box office from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. daily (closed Tuesdays); 4 to 6 p.m. Sundays; at oregoncabaret.com; or by calling 488-2902 (same hours).

Gourmet dinner and brunch are available with advance reservations. Appetizers, desserts and beverages are also available without reservations.

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