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The Mystery of Irma Vep
Vortex Theatre

Also see Dean's review of Kiss of the Spider Woman and Rob's review of Grease

Bryan Lambe and Garrick Milo
Whether or not you get all the allusions to old movies and plays that are scattered everywhere in The Mystery of Irma Vep, it's still a fantastically good time at the theater. That's because it's a gimmick show: there are only two actors, and much of the fun is in seeing them change costume and accent and gender every few minutes.

A send-up of the Hitchcock film Rebecca and every other British gothic, plus werewolf and mummy and vampire movies, this concoction was conceived by Charles Ludlam in 1984 for his Ridiculous Theatrical Company. It's not ridiculous at all, but a really savvy pastiche. And if you have the right two actors, director, set designer, and, especially, costumer and dressers, it can be a riot. Here we have all of these people working in top form.

Garrick Milo is splendid, and it's a shame he doesn't appear on Albuquerque stages more than once every few years. His portrayal of the maid (the Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca equivalent) is perfectly arch, and his other characters are also hilarious, plus there's an amazing display of physical comedy in the second act. Bryan Lambe impressed me earlier this year by doing several roles in Little Shop of Horrors, and he shows here that that was no fluke. He's equally adept as Lady Enid, a shady Egyptian, a werewolf, and on and on.

Kenneth Ansloan, locally famous as Tequila Mockingbyrd in The Dolls, Albuquerque's drag troupe, directs this play pretty "straight," without a lot of added camp or double entendres. There are enough of these in the script already. (It would not be an Ansloan production without a dildo, though, and he continues that tradition.) The set by Chesapeake Dalrymple and the props by Nina Dorrance are impressive for a small-budget theater. Lighting by Anna Nichols is spot on.

In some sense, the secret stars of the show are Jaime Pardo, who designed the costumes, and velcro—and the backstage dressers, who finally get to take the curtain call that they deserve.

You don't need to know the plot. You only need to know that you should see this show.

The Mystery of Irma Vep, by Charles Ludlam, is being presented at the Vortex Theatre, 2900 Carlisle NE in Albuquerque. Through October 31, 2014. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00, with an extra show on Halloween at 10:30pm. Info at or 505-247-8600.

Photo: Alan Mitchell

--Dean Yannias

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