Open Stage opens its season with the wacky farce Irma Vep. | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Open Stage opens its season with the wacky farce Irma Vep.

A mad farce like Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep demands virtuoso acting and directing. The acclaimed 1984 play is itself a skillfully engineered spoof of vintage supernatural drawing-room mysteries, complete with ancient manor, limping footman, Egyptian curse and possible werewolf. Its mix of physical humor, broad caricature, gleefully atrocious puns and erudite wit requires clockwork precision. And that's before you factor in that the play's seven roles -- four male, three female -- must be played by just two actors, neither of whom is ever offstage for more than a couple of lines of dialogue at a time.

David Maslow, artistic director of Open Stage Theatre, accepts the challenge. Irma launches OST's season of comedies with small casts. (The others are Nilaja Sun's solo piece No Child ... and Amy Hartman's three-actor Disinfecting Edwin.) Maslow notes an Irma mini-revival, with recent or upcoming productions at regional theaters in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. "It's being remembered right now as a major piece of American writing," he says.

The production stars Dean Novotny (known for his drag persona Sissy Fit) and Robert O'Toole. By design it's a stripped-down sort of show; an original organ score, composed and performed live by classically trained Edward Buechele (OST's hair-and-makeup guy), should add to the fun. These days, says Maslow, "We all could use a good laugh."


Open Stage Theatre presents The Mystery of Irma Vep Thu., Oct. 30-Nov. 15. (The 10 p.m. Fri., Oct. 31, show is followed by a Halloween party.) $20 ($25 opening night; $18 students/seniors). 412-394-3353 or

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