Irma Vep In Racine
Over Our Head Players stage classic satire
Some time ago I had the distinct pleasure of talking to John McGivern, Christopher Tarjan and David Cecsarini about a production of Irma Vep that they were working on. It’s an extremely weird horror comedy involving vampires, werewolves and two men appearing in countless different roles in full quick change costuming. It was interesting to find out just how much work the script was beyond the typical comic staging, quick change and surface trappings of bizarre stage comedy.
Turns out that the text is actually extremely dense stuff. Rest assured, even if you were to do a doctoral dissertation on the script, there would likely have been certain in-jokes woven into the dialogue by playwright Charles Ludlam that would still manage to go undiscovered. Bringing the subtle nuances of all those bizarre non-sequiturs to life while still managing numerous quick changes and keeping the whole thing from feeling kind of desperate is a huge challenge. It’s a challenge that gets taken-up in Racine this week as Over Our Head Players opens its staging of the classic satire.
Tackling the challenge are Joseph Piirto and Over Our Head Artistic Director Rich Smith. Judging from the show’s press release, Smith knows the challenge of what he’s dealing with here. Here’s a quote from the release: "The Mystery of Irma Vep holds many challenges and may be considered the ‘gold standard’ for plays with multiple roles. But we aren’t scared ... OK, maybe we’re a little scared." Fear, Comedy Werewolves. Vampires. Sounds like a fun trip to Racine.