Rubicon Theatre Presents The Mystery of Irma Vep, Previews 10/12


When the night is dark and stormy, or the mist is rising on the moors under a full moon; when there are macabre stirrings in the tomb, or the unearthly howling of laughter from audience members - it must be the season for THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP, Charles Ludlam's ribald sendup of gothic romance and horror that begins preview next Wednesday, October 12, opens October 15, and continues through November 6 at Rubicon Theatre Company.

Rubicon veterans JOSEPH FUQUA and Jamie Torcellini return to RTC in Ludlam's madcap pas de deux, penny dreadful, quick change farce, directed by Artistic Associate Jenny Sullivan. Between them, they take on such characters as Lord and Lady Hillcrest, the servants Nicodemus Underwood and Jane Twisden, Irma Vep (the late Lady Hillcrest), Alcazar the Egyptian guide, Princess Pev Amri (an Egyptian mummy), a vampiric intruder, a werewolf, a specter, and perhaps even more before the curtain falls. Ludlam's two-act play is a satire of several theatrical and film genres, including Victorian melodrama, Gothic romance, farce and the Alfred Hitchcock film "Rebecca" (1940).

First produced by Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company in a 1984 off-off Broadway run in Greenwich Village, the show enjoyed an award-winning off-Broadway revival at The Westside Theatre. There's drama, passion, outrageous costumes, a set with nice draperies, and big belly laughs in this hilarious Halloween show.


Things aren't going so well for Lady Enid Hillcrest, recently wed to Lord Edgar Hillcrest of Mandacrest Manor. Something is amiss in the remote manor on the heath; between a rogue wolf that's on the loose attacking hapless folk, and visitations in the dark of night by strange specters, to say nothing of the looming presence of the late - but very present - Lady Hillcrest, aka Irma Vep, Lady Enid is stressed out, and if truth be told, isn't quite feeling herself. To make matters worse, the maid is utterly devoted to the memory of her former mistress - as seems to be Lord Edgar - and finally, Nicodemus, the swineherd and grounds man, has a pesky and recurring problem with the moon.

Lord Edgar has an idea that Egyptology could help shed light, and subsequently dallies with a mummi?ed princess; he dare not mention the word vampire, even as he can't dismiss the dark and bloody evidence that plagues his manse. All in all, Ludlam's "penny dreadful" tale pokes fun at gothic horror, gothic romance and stage melodrama in a fell swoop sendup in which nothing is sacred and two actors blaze through a dizzying array of costume changes, hell-bent on solving the Mystery of Irma Vep!

Playwright Charles Ludlam termed the play a "penny dreadful," taking his cue from a type of fiction publication in 19th century Britain that usually featured lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part retailed for a penny. Printed on cheap stock, the tales were intended as a common-man's alternative to the pricey fare of the likes of Dickens, whose publications ran upwards of a shilling.


Charles Ludlam (1943-1987) was a New York actor, director and playwright, once described by The New Yorker as " of our nation's most prolific artists, whose inspiration for his productions-precursors of some of today's performance art-
came from B movies, penny dreadfuls, opera, and his own sense of glee when it came to making manic spectacles."

Ludlam worked out of the Ridiculous Theatre Company, which he founded in 1967, penning dozens of plays from a perspective sharply skewed to the irreverent. With IRMA VEP, he had his first runaway hit, which he took on the road and for which he found an enthusiastic audience. Asked to explain the intent behind the Ridiculous in a 1978 interview, Ludlam explained, "It has to do with humor and unhinging the pretensions of serious art. It takes what is worthless and transforms it to high art." He also noted, "I sometimes think that the Ridiculous is the only serious theatre. After all, everywhere you look in this world there's something that's ridiculous. It's important to help people see that. I often think all theatre is ridiculous, but we're not always willing to admit it."

Ludlam stipulated in his rights agreement that THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP must be performed by two same-sex actors, intending that cross-dressing underscore the melodrama's farcical tone. The piece includes upwards of thirty-five breakneck costume changes, and a dizzying array of entrances, exits and plot twists not for the faint-hearted stage manager.

By 1991, THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP had become the most-produced play in the United States, solidifying Ludlam's place in the international repertoire, though the playwright would not live to see it, felled at the age of 44 by complications related to AIDS.


BENJAMIN DOVER (Lord Edgar Hillcrest) - call him Ben! - is pleased once again to be working in a town with a wonderful Marriott Hotel. "Ah, threadcount!" says he. BD (as he is referred to in the biz) is known on sight the world round. Having landed the role of Detective Marvin Mirth in the hit TV series, "Streets of Mirth" (Fox 2003-2010) two days after graduating from The Roarke Actor's and Singer's Academy of Baton Rouge (Go Muskrats!), BD's life became FABULOUS. Wealth, prestige, and a career that spans three quarters of a decade ... now the ability to take a tiny job in a small theater a scant year after his history-making TV series ended! "Well it is time to try the Stage," says he. Ventura audiences are in for a treat. Mr. Dover is sometimes inaudible but always ... mirthfull (word and spelling registered trademark)! Visit BD at www.he' Agent: Wilhelm at The Porterhouse Agency.
ABU DHABI DU (Alcazar) is a graduate of the Bombay University of Language & Literature (BULL), Doo earned a degree in Special Hirsute Indian Teachings. Following his move to California, Due began his acting career as an extra in many films including "Bolly Who Dunnit?" and "Sari, Wrong Number." But he is almost recognizable as the smiling cadaver in "The Comedy Killer." Discovered at the Buffet and Boards Dinner theatre, Douh was asked to step in for The King of Siam in The King and I. Popular food critic Lawrence LaHarr wrote, "Mr. Dhabi Du's performance was as buttery as the Creamed Corn, bringing to the role the same emollience as the portage au gelee."
JACQUELINE HYDE (Pev Amri) grew up on a small pig farm outside of Macon, Georgia. With 12 Brothers and Sisters, the "Bakers' Dozen," as the town calls them, were soon forced to perform shows to raise money for the family business. Their "Hootenannies" helped to keep the bill payers at bay, and the family business can proudly say they're "Macon Bacon!" Ms. Dowd has a degree in geophysics, is a graduate from MIT (Macon Institute for Theatre), and is a full figured model for bathing suits. "I'm so blessed to have this opportunity, my cups runneth over!"
WARREN PEASE (Nicodemus Underwood) was up for the title role in The Creature, got a callback for Gravedigger #2 in Hamlet, and was down to the END for the career-making role of Detective Marvin Mirth in the TV Series "Streets of Mirth," which he lost to his colleague Benjamin Dover. Congrats, Ben. He is overjoyed to be stealing the stage opposite his friend BD. Thanks to his Agent and Cousin, Kip, for standing by him and giving him a couch to call his own. Warren is single and registered at
MARY A. RICHMAN (Lady Enid Hillcrest) is thrilled to be back in Ventura where she met her 5th husband, Iggy, who encouraged her to try her hand at a clothing line for dogs. Her canine creations, the hand knitted Barkula ArfGyle, and Sherlock Bones costumes have been a sensation! Her latest tour de force was starring in "The Trouble with Eve," a play of biblical proportions, where audiences and critics alike said "She Glowed." Apologies to the lighting designer (A lawsuit against the lighting designer was settled out of court). Mary is single once again, but enjoys the company of her greatest love, "Petit," her prize-winning Bichon Frise and, at last count, 23 cats.
SARA TONIN (Jane Twisden) is savoring this return to Ventura. County audiences may remember her local cable access cooking show from 1987 called "Poke it, Cook it, Eat it!" which utilized her love of potatoes, attention and ovens! (Check out the cookbook with the same name available in the Rubicon Gift Barn - proceeds benefit Sara!) Sara is a proud member of the Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre. Regional credits are limited to productions of The Children's Hour and her one woman show Eleanor Roosevelt: It's Not Funny! Sara wishes to tHank Rossie and Ellen for their continued inspiration. (Commercial Resume available by request.)
JOSEPH FUQUA (Understudy) A Yale School of Drama graduate, his Broadway and off-Broadway credits include Brighton Beach Memoirs and 110 in the Shade (Lincoln Center). Joseph's regional credits include Octavius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alexei in A Month in the Country at Arena Stage, Iago in Othello for Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, Louis in Angels in America at Dallas Theater Center and Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks opposite Mary Jo Catlett at Ensemble Theatre in Santa Barbara. On television, Joseph guest-starred in "The X Files," "The Profiler," "Brooklyn South," "The Pretender," "Chicago Hope," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Becker," and the pilot, "Second Nature." Film credits include "Ed's Next Move," "David Searching," "Heyday" and J.E.B. Stuart in "Gettysburg," a role he reprised in the film "Gods and Generals" with Robert Duvall. In 2000 Joseph joined Rubicon's Theatre as its first company member. He has appeared in over 25 productions with Rubicon, including Hamlet (Title role-Indy Award), The Boys Next Door (Indy Award), The Rainmaker (Robby Award and Rep Award), All My Sons (Ovation Award), Doubt (directed by his dear friend Jenny Sullivan) and most recently he played Sebastian in Jim O'Neil's The Tempest with the Rubicon.
Jamie Torcellini (Understudy) has recently completed 2 years of performing Billy Elliot in both the Broadway and Chicago companies. Other Broadway credits include, Little Johnny Jonesas standby to Donny Osmond, Mr. Mistoffelees in Cats, standby for Jim Dale in Me and My Girl, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, the Barber in Man of La Mancha, and Lefou in Beauty and the Beast.TV and Film credits include "Law and Order," "ER," "Aladdin," "Pocahontas," "Stuart Little," "The Jamie Foxx Show" and "Mrs. Santa Claus." Rubicon Theatre Productions include Man of La Mancha, Hamlet, You Can't Take it With You, and Picasso at Lapin Agile.


Jenny Sullivan recently directed Rubicon's Steel Magnolias, Trying, Spit Like a Big Girl, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, You Can't Take It With You (Indie Award), Hamlet (Indie award), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Tuesdays with Morrie. Other Rubicon credits include Happy Days with Robin Pearson Rose; Defying Gravity with Harold Gould and Stephanie Zimbalist; Art (Indie Award) with Cliff DeYoung, Joseph Fuqua and Bruce Weitz; Dancing at Lughnasa (Indie Award) with Susan Clark, Bonnie

Franklin and Stephanie Zimbalist; The Rainmaker with Stephanie Zimbalist and John Bennett Perry; The Little Foxes with Linda Purl; two casts of Ancestral Voices; Love Letters with Jack Lemmon and Felicia Farr; and Old Wicked Songs with Harold Gould and Joseph Fuqua. Other theatres: The Dresser with Len Cariou and Granville Van Dusen at Manitoba Theatre Centre in Canada; The Clean House (Indie Award), A Dublin Carol and The Memory of Water for Ensemble Theatre of Santa Barbara; the West Coast Premiere of Jane Martin's Flags; Death of a Salesman with Stuart Margolin and Wendy Phillips in Montgomery, Alabama; The Falcon Theatre production of The Memoirs of Abraham Lincoln with Granville Van Dusen; and the premiere of Tom Dugan's Nazi Hunter - Simon Wiesenthal. Jenny was Associate Director for the L.A. production of The Vagina Monologues and also directed premieres of Ad Wars with David Dukes and Stephanie Zimbalist; The Cat's Meow with Joseph Fuqua; The Awful Grace of God: A Portrait of RFK; and Bicoastal Woman. Her World Premiere production of The Baby Dance began at Pasadena Playhouse and then moved to Williamstown Theatre Festival, Long Wharf Theatre (CT Critics' Directing Award) and the Lucille Lortel Theatre Off-Broadway. In six seasons at Williamstown, Jenny directed MACS (A Macaroni Requiem), Defying Gravity, Hotel Oubliette, Dirt and The Ferry Back. Other regional credits include The Elephant Man for San Jose Rep, Listen for Wings at Access Theatre, and Mother Earth/Father Sky and The Shadow Box at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. Jenny's film credits include "Access All Areas" and "The Next Best Thing" (in which she had the good fortune to direct her father Barry). Rubicon produced the World Premiere of Jenny's play J for J with Jeff Kober and the late great John Ritter. The production subsequently played at the Court Theatre in L.A. Jenny was appointed Rubicon's first Artistic Associate in 2003.


Set Design for THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP is by Ovation Award-winner Thomas S. Giamario, who recently designed Rubicon productions of Steel Magnolias and Lonesome Traveler. Costumes are by Alex Jaeger, whose credits include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and South Coast Rep. Theresa Scarano returns to Rubicon as prop designer, and lighting design is by Lap Chi Chu. The production is produced in association with Ensemble Theatre of Santa Barbara.


THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP opens Rubicon Theatre Company's 2011-2012 Season, entitled "Magic, Music and Mystery." The season is sponsored by Barbara Meister ~ Barber Ford • Volkswagen • Subaru • RV, Janet and Mark L. Goldenson, Sandra and Jordan Laby ~ San Buenaventura Foundation for the Arts, Loretta and Mike Merewether
And Micheline Sakharoff. Show co-sponsors for THE MSYTERY OF IRMA VEP are Hilford Moving & Storage and E. J. Harrison & Sons/Harrison Industries.

Dates, Prices and Special Performances

THE MYSERY OF IRMA VEP opens at Rubicon Theatre on Wednesday, October 12 at 7:00 p.m. Performances continue through November 6, Wednesdays at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $39 to $59, depending on the day of the week. Tickets for students are $25.

Tickets for THE MYSERY OF IRMA VEP may be purchased in person through the Rubicon Theatre Company BOX OFFICE, located at 1006 E. Main Street (Laurel entrance).

To charge by phone, call (805) 667-2900. Or visit Rubicon online at Twenty-four-hour-a-day ticketing is available online, thanks to a grant from the IRVINE FOUNDATION's Regional Arts Initiative.

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