BWW Review: THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP at Fulton Theatre
A universal rule of good comedy is that the characters must take their predicament seriously. Humor stemming from even the silliest of characters like Buddy the Elf, Donald Duck, or the Ghostbusters makes us laugh because they treat their problems with life and death sincerity. As soon as a character winks at the audience, or figuratively pokes us in the ribs, the stakes (and the humor) are lost.
This summarizes the major problem with Fulton Theatre's The Mystery of Irma Vep. This October show is all tricks and no treats. It is 120 tedious minutes of screeching, gasping, and hammy acting. The entire time the show is busy patting itself on the back letting us know how funny it is and that they are in on the joke. Yet, such an approach sacrifices plot and audience engagement. At no point are we invested in a coherent story, but instead, we are hit over the head with never-ending histrionics.
The two actor cast consists of Chuck Ragsdale and Oliver Wadsworth. Both actors plays four roles, including several in drag. Voices and mannerisms blended and overlapped. Their acting choices was overwhelmingly loud and fast. Annoying and funny are not the same thing. Director, Andrew Kindig must take some of the blame for not reigning them in.
The script doesn't help much. The story is incoherent. There was a werewolf, a mummy, and a vampire. Most events took place in an English manor, but there was an unnecessary side trip to Egypt in Act Two. Egypt was represented by some wrinkled curtains and a cheap looking sarcophagus.
Part of my frustration with this show is that I know the Fulton can do much better. Last year's studio series consisted of three outstanding plays. The Irish, and How They Got That Way, Blackbird, and Red. They were all excellent, and set an extremely high bar for local drama. I guess I need to remind myself that the even the best baseball players strike out now and then when hitting for the fences.