Jungle Theater's "Irma Vep": making a Ridiculous summer

Categories: Theater
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Michal Daniel
Bradley Greenwald (with wolf) cops a feel; Steven Epp objects
Our spotlight review of the Jungle's The Mystery of Irma Vep will appear in tomorrow's City Pages; in the meantime here are some first thoughts based on last Saturday's opening weekend performance.

Irma Vep first appeared at New York's Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1984. Charles Ludlam created the play as a two-man, quick chance exercise in both sending up Victorian melodrama and as a tribute to the imaginative possibilities of theater.

Ludlam was artistic director of Ridiculous, and he took the company's name seriously: basically, lots of craziness and bawdy gags (Irma boasts dildo jokes, fart gags, and prosthetic breasts) combined with knowing nods to classic texts and a sense of connecting to the past while chasing down boundaries in the present.

When done well, this stuff is incredibly fun, and it won't spoil the review to simply assert that the Jungle's production is done very well. Steven Epp and Bradley Greenwald allow just enough chaos to creep into their performances to give a sense of genuine thrill, but they are also skilled and gifted enough to wring every drop of meaning out Ludlam's calculated insanity.

On Saturday night, the Jungle was filled, so it looks as though the theater might well have a hit on its hands. If so, it's easy to understand why: on a warm summer night, it's weirdly fun to find oneself in the parlor of a musty English estate, with werewolves and vampires circling all around.

The Mystery of Irma Vep plays through August 4 at the Jungle Theater. For tickets call 612.822.7063 or click here.


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