By Charles Ludlam
“I've seen it twice in previous years. It is wonderful.”
Milton S., Facebook
In Victorian England, ‘penny dreadfuls’ were cheap stories sold in parts weekly for one penny. Many of their subjects covered the supernatural, and basically they were so dreadful they only cost a penny. In Triad Stage’s production of The Mystery of Irma Vep, a parable of penny dreadfuls, Victorian morals and old Hollywood horror films, the spoofy ghost tale works well in their favor, laying the groundwork for a whirlwind of a comedy.
Let’s just get this straight from the outset: Charles Ludlam’s “The Mystery of Irma Vep” doesn’t have a serious bone in the body of its script. Triad Stage’s lively production, which opened on Saturday night at the Hanesbrands Theatre, makes that perfectly clear.
Charles Ludlam’s parody play, “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” was first seen by the public in off-off and then off-Broadway productions in 1984-86 and 1998-99, respectively. Both shows gained awards, and attention, for this comedy that satirizes and yet celebrates several styles of fiction from the past. “Irma Vep” went on to become the most-produced play in the United States (1991), productions in London and, in 2003, became the longest-running play ever produced in Brazil.