Murder. Mystery. Mummies. Vampires. Wolfmen. Is this Christmas? At Ensemble Theater Company, it sure is, with the preview night Thursday of “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” a very light, very ridiculous work of theater meant to bring some levity in the middle of a dramatic season. Featuring only two actors but over eight roles, the evening requires many quick costume changes behind the scenes (over 30!), and loads of gender switching. In other words, yes, we have men in drag. Deck the halls!
Charles Ludlam wrote 29 plays in his short life, most of them comedies. Many are considered by critics and companies to be unmountable, as they were so intertwined with Ludlam’s persona. But “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is not that kind of play. Possibly Ludlam’s crowning achievement, it provides a series of memorable characters as well as postmodern pastiches of everything from “Rebecca,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Gaslight” to penny dreadfuls and Universal horror movies. His company was called the Ridiculous Theatrical Company — located in Greenwich Village, New York City — and the name indicates what Ludlam was after.