Review: THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP at Omaha Community Playhouse

The production runs through November 7 at the Omaha Community Playhouse

By: Oct. 21, 2021
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Review: THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP at Omaha Community Playhouse

Murder, mystery and.... mummies? You might even stumble upon the occasional vampire or werewolf a time or two, if the occasion calls for it. The Omaha Community Playhouse is currently delighting audiences with their most recent production, The Mystery of Irma Vep.

A fast paced two person farce that harkens back to the sometimes overwhelming slapstick and melodramatic comedies of days past, The Mystery of Irma Vep is a show that many can enjoy, but few will truly appreciate for the specific stylistic comedic writing it presents. I struggled at times to decipher exactly what playwright Charles Ludlam was intending with his approach to the piece when writing it. Was the focus meant to be on the actual play being performed by the two actors and the storyline they present? Or was it meant to be focused on the idea that two actors were required to take on these additional roles last minute due to their cast mates not making showtime, almost as The Play That Goes Wrong does, and that there were times they might have missed their marks? To me, the line felt blurry and confused. And while my appreciation for the script or writing style may be in question, the talent of the cast and creative team is far from it.

Director Jim McKain has assembled a winning duo in Ben Beck and Anna Perilo. While the show historically features two male actors portraying all characters both the male and female presenting, McKain stepped outside the norm and left the script in the capable hands of his two talented performers, much like the Omaha Community Playhouse did in 1991 when they first produced this piece and featured the talents of Beck's own mother, Susie Baer Collins, as well as Omaha Community Playhouse staple Jerry Longe. While the audience Thursday evening was possibly not as responsive as anticipated, Beck and Perilo both pushed through without losing steam or energy and kept the show moving at a solid pace, showing a level of professionalism that is unfortunately not always experienced in today's theater world. The characters these performers created were expertly crafted, with differences being showcased not only by different and vibrant costumes created by Omaha favorite Lindsay Pape, but also by body language, accent, and energy level. My hat is off to these two performers on what is sure to be a marathon show for them both.

The creative team also stepped up to the plate to tackle this piece with tear away costumes, dramatic lighting and sound effects, and even hidden trap doors. Scenic Designer Matthew Hamel and Scenic Artist Janet Morr spared no expense when it came to the stage appearance and the amount of detail put into every little piece. Lindsay Pape created bright and creative costumes that enabled the quickest of changes and provided their own moments of laughter. Composer Tim Vallier added a wonderful ambience with his original music, but without taking attention away from the action on stage. And John Gibilisco's sound design was the cherry on top of it all.

No matter if you are a fan of farce or not, I suggest stopping by the Omaha Community Playhouse and spending your evening with the cast and crew of The Mystery of Irma Vep. Who knows... You may even find yourself in Egypt without ever boarding a plane.

The Mystery of Irma Vep runs through November 7 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. For tickets, please visit the Omaha Community Playhouse box office, call 402-553-0800, or visit

Photo Credit: Robertson Photography