Mr. Puff has been mightily busy these final autumn days, trying to tie things up before the solstice. Thus his updates from the field have been far too infrequent.
But he would like to direct his readers’ attentions to the always venturesome Kitchen Theatre Company, who have two more performances of a most delightful holiday frolic, Charles Ludlam’s zany ode to all that is gothic, The Mystery of Irma Vep. You have two last chances to catch this madcap mash-note to the weird, the haunted and the darkly romantic.
KTC has used the sobriquet “boys in dresses” to advert their latest, and indeed part of the fun is to see the sublime Jesse Bush and ravishing Tony Roach in the voluptuous draperies of costumier Lisa Boquist. The boys glide in these over-sized homages to feminine pulchritude like floats at the Rose Bowl parade.
Irma Vep’s primary genesis is the great Rebecca (du Maurier and Hitchcock’s film) but there are shout-outs to the whole range of Victorian and Edwardian drawing-room horror (werewolves, vampires, mummies and even witches), the moors of the Brontë sisters, Gaslight, the Scottish play, and much more.
Bush is sly and insidious as the maid Jane Twisden, with a slight nasal twang and a supercilious attitude that delightfully mixes the viciousness of Edith Evans in Rebecca with the tart sauciness of young Angela Lansbury from Gaslight.
Roach as Lady Enid Hillcrest uncertain ingénue who proves to have a spine of steel, flutters, produces at a pin-drop a delicate moue, and has a particularly devilish way with a swoon. Bush partners him with particularly fey bonhomie as Lord Hillcrest.
Roach also gets to essay the wooden-legged, brogue-ridden and roguish Nicodemus Underwood, as well as an ancient Egyptian princess (complete with tiny fake breasts) and a bizarre Egyptian guide, Alcazar.
Much of the delight in the evening is the quick changes as the two actors bring this zany crew to life. Sharp direction by Rachel Lampert and a lovely sound scape from Leslie Greene.
You can catch the final perfs Sat Dec 17 at 8 pm and Sun Dec 18 at 4 pm at the Kitchen Theatre. (kitchentheatre.org)