New play opens at NTC Oct. 24
In “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” author Charles Ludlam satirizes Gothic romance novels, pulp fiction, and horror movies. But he doesn’t stop there.
With two actors playing eight different roles and changing costumes 35 times, Ludlam is also laughing at the entire craft of theatrical production.
The plot is borrowed from Gothic romances such as Daphne de Maurier’s “Rebecca”and Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” with fantastic characters from “penny dreadful” fiction and “C” rated movies tossed in. All of the roles (male and female) are played by Raina Bass and Diane Mitchell, with a little help from a mysterious “third man,” actor Jason Lindsey.
“I would say this play is a spoof on the whole idea of melodrama,” said Mitchell. “It’s completely ridiculous, funny, and sinister. By the way, ‘Irma Vep’ is an anagram for ‘vampire.’” “Knowing that an actor walked off the stage and came right back on as a different character, looking completely different with a different accent and set of characteristics, really adds to the humor,” added Bass.
“This is the first time any theater has been given the legal rights to produce this play with two female leads,” said director Jared Wright. “Charles Ludham wrote it to be performed by himself and another man. He has since passed away. But I think he would be very proud of what we are making of it. Interpreted from a woman’s perspective, small details are coming out that haven’t been noticed in previous productions.”
In 1991, “Irma Vep” was the most produced play in the United States, and in 2003, it became the longest-running play ever produced in Brazil.
As in “Rebecca,” the original mistress of the house has died under mysterious circumstances. The current mistress of the house, Lady Enid, is being attacked by werewolves, vampires, the living dead, the curse of the Druids, and then some Egyptian mummies — all while making you laugh.
“You’ll have to come and see the play to find out what happens,” said Mitchell. “There are a lot of twists in the plot.”
“As a matter of fact, we are of the opinion that people should come see it twice just to fully understand the plot,” added Bass.
Raina Bass discovered her acting talents right here at NTC when she landed a role in “Twentieth Century” in 2011. Next, she played the daughter in “On Golden Pond” and then multiple roles in "Epic Proportions.” In her other life she is a graphic designer as well as a mom with two active boys.
Though Diane Mitchell has been in theater for only four years, “Irma Vep” will be her twentieth show. NTC audiences will remember her hilarious performance as Lilly Garland in “Twentieth Century,” but most of her experience has been at Southside Theatre Guild, which is where she got her start.
“I love comedy — it’s my favorite genre,” said Mitchell. “The more I can make people laugh, the happier I am. When director Jared Wright told me about the show, I had to come and audition. I am so thrilled to be on stage with Raina again. We’re having so much fun.”
Wright, who has a degree in theater from Jacksonville State University in Alabama, has been singing and acting most of his life. He has been a member of the Southside Theater Guild since 1992 and has worked at Onstage Atlanta and the Clayton Alliance for Summer Theater.
“I love it,” said Wright. “This is the first time I’ve directed a play at NTC, though I helped on costumes with ‘City of Angels.’ I’m very excited. I love the space of the Main Stage. We have two people to fill all of it, which is part of the humor. We’re planning a very special curtain call for the dressers who make those lightning-speed costume changes possible.”
“Irma Vep” will be Jason Lindsey’s first production here at Newnan. “I think ‘Irma Vep’ is going to be a hysterical show,” he says, hiding a smile.
“The Mystery of Irma Vep” opens at Newnan Theatre Company Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 3. Tickets are $8 for children, $12 for seniors and students, and $14 for adults.
Shows are: Thursday, Oct. 24, 8 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m.; Saturday Oct. 26, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m.
To purchase tickets, visit Newnan Theatre Company’s website at www.newnantheatre.org or visit the box office before or after any performance. The theater is located in historic downtown Newnan at 24 First Ave.
On Halloween night, patrons are encouraged to come in costume to see the show to get a ticket discount. There will also be trick-or-treating in the lobby before the show.
If you have questions regarding the content of any show, email Artistic Director Tony Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org .