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BWW Review: 'THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP–A Penny Dreadful' at Orlando Shakes

BWW Review: 'THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP–A Penny Dreadful' at Orlando Shakes
Photos by Tony Firriolo feature Brad DePlanche as Lady Enid (left) and Chris Crawford as Jane Twisden (right).

Howls of laughter echoed down the halls of Orlando Shakes last weekend as the spooky satire, "The Mystery of Irma Vep-A Penny Dreadful", opened just in time for the Halloween season. From the title alone, the expectations for a show filled to the brim with satire and comedy are fairly high. (If you're unaware of the anagram that lies within "Irma Vep", I'll let you discover that through the spectacular fashion that it's revealed in thanks to one of the two men who command the stage throughout the entirety of the show.) But straying from any further potential spoilers, let's explore the finer elements that make this show sing-or perhaps, scream.

The set design by Bert Scott, a stunning display set in Gothic England, immediately captures the haunting vibe this show is just dying to explore. Scott utilizes the tight space of the Goldman Theatre efficiently and effectively while bringing to life the quaint, yet eerie, living space of our lead characters, Lord Edgar (portrayed by Chris Crawford) and Lady Enid (portrayed by Brad DePlanche). Together this duo manages to accomplish something that would seem challenging with such limited room to explore the stage-they pull you into the world of their unhinged, wieldy characters, eliminating the feeling of the small theatre.

These men, playing a combined seven characters between the two of them, breathe life into this twisted tale riddled with nods to everything from Shakespeare to the supernatural. From vampire attacks, werewolf sightings, and the resurrection of an Egyptian princess, the plot of the play bounces quickly from theme to theme as we explore the beginning of Lady Enid and Lord Edgar's new marriage. As we dive into their new relationship, the haunting past of the manor slowly evolves, along with the quick-witted humor (and marathon of quick-changes).

Although these quick-changes were often very successful and transitioned smoothly, there was the occasional mishap. Throughout the show, the actors' speeches were laced in a thick British accent that Deplanche sometimes found himself slippinging in and out of throughout his portrayals of various characters, but such minor slips of the tongue are easily forgiven as the show progresses. At another point, one of Deplanche's many characters loses the wooden leg he wears (following an unseen attack by a wolf), and Deplanche's trench coat fails to cover his actual leg, leaving him standing there with a wooden leg in hand and visible boot showing under his coat. However, moments like this only enhance some of the comedic effect of the outrageously chaotic moment on stage. Since the audience was already roaring with laughter, it's likely this was only like throwing an extra wooden leg onto the fire.

As we look at the well-balanced humor the men use as they play to each others' strengths, it becomes clear just how complex and versatile each actor is as he transitions from role to role with grace. Their comedic abilities soared in moments when audience participation was also called-upon during a few moments in the show. These moments not only proved to be an intelligent use of such a small theatrical space, but this breaking of the fourth wall is carried out in such a seamless manner that the laughter from such blatant absurdity only enhances the comedic effect of a show that relies heavily on satire. But when Crawford and Deplanche took aim at the fourth wall, they didn't aim to just crack it, they aimed to utterly shatter it-bringing roars of laughter from the audience with every dramatic pause and eye-roll in the house's direction.

While these two manage to keep the effect quite humorous throughout the majority of the show, at times the interaction can become a little excessive and on-the-nose, but nonetheless, the amusement is non-stop. Although the show is not one that will leave you contemplating the greatest questions that life has to offer, it does manage to serve as a much needed theatrical escape that we often don't realize we need until we stumble upon it.

Where: Orlando Shakes (Goldman Theater), 812 East Rollins Street, Orlando, FL 32803

When: October 10 - November 18, 2018


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From This Author McKenzie Lakey