Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's review of Buried Child
Almost all of the action in The Mystery of Irma Vep takes place at Mandacrest Estate, on a perpetually stormy moor. The mistress of the manor has died and master Edgar is returning with his new wife, young Lady Enid. With the help of their one-legged groundskeeper and quick-witted housekeeper, the lord and his new lady combat vampires, werewolves, and Egyptian mummies all before their first anniversary.
Paul Kuhn and Rich Bradford play all of the characters with myriad quick changes and a host of funny accents. In a stroke of genius, Bradford plays Mandacrest's housekeeper Jane Twisden as a no-nonsense Jamaican woman, delivering a line about virginity being "the carnival balloon of life" that is ridiculously amusing. Kuhn is at his funniest as young and frivolous Lady Enid, chattering on about her diet and days on the stage. While Kuhn and Bradford both have funny moments, they do not have any chemistry together and the jokes that rely on their interactions fall flat. That lack of chemistry undoubtedly contributes to the production's most serious problem: It is just not funny enough to be a successful farce.
Pacing problems also keep the show from being a comedic success. Some of the lines are delivered so quickly they do not have time to land, and some of the scene changes take so long it is hard to stay attentive. Technical limitations mean that the quick changes really aren't quick enough to get laughs. Other problems are harder to pin down. In a comedy like Irma Vep, every withering glance, entrance, exit and error should be an opportunity to land a joke. Wright's production suffers from an excess of missed opportunities.
Curio Theatre Company's production is not as funny as it should be, but for $15-$30 it is still a fun night of theater.
The Mystery of Irma Vep - A Penny Dreadful runs through November 23, 2019, at Curio Theatre Company, Calvary Center for Culture and Community, 4740 Baltimore Ave., Philadelphia PA. $10 student rush tickets are sold at the door at 7:50 p.m. before each performance. For tickets and information, visit www.curiotheatre.org or call 215-921-8243.