Center Stage Camping it up with 'Irma Vep'

May 02, 1991|By Lou Cedrone | Lou Cedrone,Evening Sun Staff

IT'S GOOD to see Wil Love back at Center Stage.

An excellent comedian, Love plays about half the roles in ''The Mystery of Irma Vep,''absolutely the campiest thing the company has ever done.

The play was written by Charles Ludlam, a practitioner of camp who died at age 44 in 1987. His ''Irma Vep'' was first produced off Broadway in 1984 and won two Obies. In the Center Stage production, multiple roles are shared by Love and Derek D. Smith, who manages to keep comic pace with Love.

The staging is very much a part of the comedy, which takes place in the new Head Theater. Center Stage management said the house was multipurpose and adaptable when it opened in February; it's not a lie.

Hugh Landwehr's set has a monstrous chandelier that hangs above the audience, the loges on the sides of the stage have been festooned with drapery and cupid heads, and the proscenium is decorated with larger than life-size cutouts of the likes of Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr and Marlene Dietrich.

On stage, things are equally interesting, particularly when the two players find themselves in Egypt, where the doors to a tomb are decorated with pornographic illustrations.

Don't ask why they go to Egypt. They have reasons, of course, but Ludlam gets them there primarily to do a spoof of ''The Mummy.''

And that, of course, is only one target. This is camp, the off Broadway sort, so just about everything is kidded, including the ''Friday the 13th'' movies.

Well, why not? Everything goes here. You don't have to look too closely to recognize elements of ''Rebecca,'' ''Jane Eyre,'' ''The Wolf Man,'' ''Dracula'' and ''Gaslight.''

Movie buffs will have fun. Camp buffs will also enjoy the show. There are times when the comedy might be sharper than it is, but most of the time, it is sharp enough.

Because Love and Smith play all the roles, there is a lot of hurried costume changing, and that adds to the amusement. There are also some remarks most people won't get, those who don't know this kind of camp, but much of it is obvious, ready to be enjoyed, if you're willing to accept it.

The plot, or one of them, has Smith, as Lord Edgar, take a new bride who wonders what happened to her husband's first wife, Irma. Irma's picture is above the mantle. Should her successor wear one of Irma's dresses? Will Lord Edgar approve? Are you out of your mind? Didn't you see ''Rebecca''? Have you seen ''Gaslight'' and ''The Wolf Man''? It helps if you have. It also helps to allow the players the overkill in the first act.

''The Mystery of Irma Vep,'' which continues at Center Stage through June 16, is Stan Wojewodski's last production as director and artistic director at Center Stage.

Wojewodski and Landwehr should share equal billing with the actors in "The Mystery of Irma Vep."

The play's troubles are in the first act; it runs longer than it should. The second act, however, justifies its length.

"The Mystery of Irma Vep"

** An exercise in Broadway camp, one in which Enid marries Edgar and wonders if she will ever be able to replace Edgar's first wife.

Cast: Wil Love, Derek D. Smith.

Director: Stan Wojewodski Jr.

Running time: two hours with one intermission.

Tickets: 332-0033.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.