Monday, October 22, 2018

The Mystery of Irma Vep

The Orlando Shakes (812 E. Rollins St Orlando, Florida 32803) is presenting The Mystery of Irma Vep, a Penny Dreadful by Charles Ludlam through November 18, 2018. The title is the name of a character in the 1915 French movie serial Les Vampires and is an anagram for the word "vampire." The set by Bert Scott was fun with it's forced perspective that would lead your eyes to the doors center stage. Even the floor boards all radiated from this central focal point. This is a perspective trick I often employ in my own sketches so it was fun to see the idea employed in the three dimensional design.

I didn't glance through the program when Pam Schwartz and I entered the theater, instead I got right to work sketching. As actors got on stage I started populating the sketch and I wanted to be sure to get as many of the cast on the page as I could. First, I focused on the maid talking to Lady Enid and then I added Nicodemus who gestured up at the painting above the fireplace of the previous lady of the house, Irma Vep. When the sketch was done I put it aside and relaxed to watch the second act. That is when I finally realized that there are just two actors in this play. I had been duped by very different mannerisms and accents. Lady Enid was never on the stage at the same time as Nicodemus. Brad DePlanche played Nicodemus, Lady Enid, Alcazar, and Pev Amri while Chris Crawford played Jane Twistden, Lord Edgar, and an intruder. Some 35 costume changes take place in the course of the two-hour show.

The play is very tongue-in-cheek with lightning fast cross-dressing. There is plenty of sexual innuendo and comedic pauses with dramatic music and lighting cues to heighten the humorous mysterious mood. The director Jim Helsinger seems to be a master at milking a comic moment. The play has a dark and sinister past and features love, intrigue, and a sinister mystery. It was a fun night of theater and perfect for the Halloween season. Get your tickets today, but the Halloween performance is already completely sold out.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: