Friday, November 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Campy ‘Irma Vep’ sends up clichés with men in drag

Greg Alexander and Benjamin T. Ismail perform in "The Mystery of Irma Vep" at the Sacramento Theatre Company. Kelly Christoffersen/Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | November 13, 2012 |

That’s the ticket

What: “The Mystery of Irma Vep”

When: 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Sacramento Theatre Company, 1419 H St., Sacramento

Tickets: $15-$38, www.sactheatre.org or 916-443-6722

“The Mystery of Irma Vep” is a spirited pastiche that gleefully takes down a host of horror film clichés, cheerfully jabs at literary sacred cows and tickles your funny bone with scene after scene of men in drag.

It’s all good, campy fun — theatrical goulash, if you will. At one level, “Irma Vep” is a spoof of the old English “penny dreadful,” a form of pulp fiction that flourished in the 19th century. Old Hollywood fright films are lampooned as well — there’s a vampire who only comes out at night, a werewolf who howls when the moon is full and an ancient Egyptian mummy that springs back to life when the proper incantation is heard.

Since “Irma Vep” is an equal-opportunity lampoon, high-class cinema and 20th century bestsellers are targeted as well — the alert viewer will spot references to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” (and the novel by Daphne du Maurier that inspired it), as well as allusions to literary masterworks by the Brontë sisters and Shakespeare.

The verbal humor runs to double entendres and puns, a la “It’s a terrible thing to marry an Egyptologist, and find he’s hung up on his mummy.”

This show traces its provenance to New York circa 1984, when the late comic genius Charles Ludlam — of the aptly named Ridiculous Theatre Company — wrote it, produced it and starred in it. Ludlam specifically stipulated that both of the show’s two performers must be of the same gender — guaranteeing that there will be a fair amount of cross-dressing, since each performer plays both male and female characters. (Ludlam, alas, died at age 44 in 1987, of AIDS related complications.)

All of this makes for lots of costume changes — upwards of 30 of them, by my count, in a show that runs under two hours. So the Sacramento Theatre Company has wisely hired veteran Greg Alexander — who’s done campy drag, as well as serious cross-dressing like the Pulitzer-winning drama “I Am My Own Wife” — and young Benjamin Ismail, a stepsister in STC’s “Cinderella,” to bring “Irma Vep” to life.

Alexander originally was hired as director, but was pressed into service as a performer as well when an injury sidelined a cast member. If this hadn’t been announced at the show’s outset, we wouldn’t have guessed: Alexander’s comic acting is spot-on, and his timing is impeccable. He plays a lord, a female servant and a few others besides. His scenes in drag recall Milton Berle, who did TV comedy in women’s clothes in the 1950s, as much as the gay entertainers of later decades.

The energetic Ismail plays a hunchback from the stables (slurring his words due to the fake rotting teeth in his mouth), a high-class, high-strung actress, a shifty tomb-raider and more.

Also notable is the scenic design by Mims Mattair, with cut-out wooden props that bring a whole new meaning to the term “flatware,” and the wildly colorful costumes by Jessica Minnihan. Stage manager Suzanne Tyler coordinates the rapid entrances and exists, as well as split-second backstage costume changes. The cozy confines of the Pollock Stage, which seats fewer 100, adds to the intimacy.

You might have expected the Sacramento Theatre Company to have staged this frothy romp in October, leading up to Halloween. But they’ve put it in the November-through-mid-December slot, with the expectation that holiday season audiences will want a laugh as the year-end festivities approach.

“The Mystery of Irma Vep” plays Wednesdays at 12:30 and 6:30 p.m., Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Sacramento Theatre Company, 1419 H St., Sacramento. Tickets are $15-$38, and available through www.sactheatre.org or by calling 916-443-6722.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8055.

Comments

comments

.

News

 
 
UC regents approve 5% tuition increases

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

California unemployment steady at 7.3 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
 
A new home for the holidays?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Explorit: Lecture illuminates state water bond

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A3

 
Apply now to take Master Gardener training

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Yolobus will reroute Saturday morning for Turkey Trot

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Help feed the hungry at Saturday’s food drive

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Volunteers sought to advocate for kids

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Village Homes gets crafty

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

Nowhere to go, nothing to do

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Davis voices concerns over new oil-by-rail proposal

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Cheers and Jeers: Katehi front and center

By Our View | From Page: A10

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

Council misses an opportunity

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Together we can do so much

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Have you read this book?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
We DO have a water shortage

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

.

Sports

 
Silveria has been there through thick and thin

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Whose seniors will go out in style at Causeway Classic No. 61?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
LBSU takes down UCD in matchup of Big West’s best

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD men get to 2-0

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Wire sports briefs: Kings cruise past Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Raiders beat K.C. to snap a 16-game skid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Aggie women start 4-game homestand Saturday at 11 a.m.

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

.

Arts

 
The Purple Ones to play tribute to Prince

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1′ fails to catch fire

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Wealth of Nations show is Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Davis Feminist Film Festival accepting submissions

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Come ‘Home for the Holidays’ and benefit school arts

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

Founding pastor of UCC’s now-famous painting on display

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Automakers debut key models at L.A. Auto Show

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, November 21, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A9

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER2

Lyon Real Estate

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER3

RE/Max Gold

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER4

Kim Eichorn

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER5

Joe Kaplan

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

Melrina A Maggiora

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

Marcelo Campos

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

Lennar Homes

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

Tracy Harris

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

Yolo FCU

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

Team Traverso

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

Travis Credit Union

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

Coldwell Banker

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER10

Ciana Wallace

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

Diane Lardelli

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

Jamie Madison

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

Malek Baroody

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

Julie Partain

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

Coldwell Banker

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER15

Cynthia Gerber

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

Karen Waggoner

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

Jamie Madison & Associates

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

Dana Hawkins & Caitlin McCalla

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER18

Chris Snow

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER18

Open House Map

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER19

F1rst Street Real Estate

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER20