‘The Mystery of Irma Vep’ a haunting and hilarious season opener




  • Sam Samuels as Jane and Noah Tuleja as Nicodemus in “The Mystery of Irma Vep” — a madcap “quick-change marathon” in which the two actors play all the roles. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ELLEN BLANCHETTE

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    Noah Tuleja as Nicodemus and Sam Samuels as Lord Edgar in “The Mystery of Irma Vep” — a madcap “quick-change marathon" in which the two actors play all the roles. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ELLEN BLANCHETTE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2021 2:43:13 PM

Silverthorne Theater Company will kick off the 2021-2022 season with a production of the uproarious two-hander “The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful,” opening Friday, Oct. 1 in The Perch at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center.

The show will be performed at The Perch at Hawks & Reed, 289 Main St., Greenfield, on Friday, Saturday and Sundays between Oct. 1 through Oct. 16. Friday and Saturday shows will be held at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday shows at 3 p.m.

Veteran actors Sam Samuels and Noah Tuleja star in this spoof of Gothic melodramas and vintage horror movies. Written by Charles Ludlum, “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is a madcap “quick-change marathon" in which the two actors play all the roles: the lord and lady of the manor, the starchy maid with a bloody secret, the groundskeeper with an even bloodier one — plus a werewolf, a vampire, an ancient mummy and a lingering ghost.

Set in the dismal halls of Mandacrest Manor in the English moors, Lord Edgar and his new bride Lady Enid try in vain to overcome the violent past and lurking terrors that haunt the house and its unhinged inhabitants. While indebted to somber origins, director Chris Rohmann says the play is a non-stop delight.

This is Rohmann’s fourth production with the local theater company. He said during last year’s season Silverthorne Theater produced several online productions over Zoom, and while this was a success, he was excited for this season to return to live-theater — albeit with health safety guidelines for audiences.

“This was supposed to be the opening show last year,” Rohmann said. “I’m glad to be back in the saddle, working on this very strange, wonderful and exciting show.” 

He said the show is full of costume quick-changes, clever jokes and slapstick humor. Written in 1984 by Ludlum, a gay man, the mad-cap comedy was created at the time when the AIDS pandemic was coming into public consciousness. Rohmann said the play, while lifted by humor, serves as a metaphor for the then mysterious disease that sucked the life out of Ludlum’s friends and colleagues.

“Ludlam produced his masterpiece during the AIDS epidemic, when its mockery of creeping horror served as both escape and defiance,” Rohmann said. “In our own fearful time, “Irma Vep” offers laughter and release with a welcome return to live theater.”

Valley theatergoers will remember Samuels’ appearance as Orgon in Silverthorne’s premiere of the musical “Tar2f!” in 2018, which was also directed by Rohmann. Locally Samuels has performed often with New Century Theatre and with PanOpera, and has a number of film, commercial and off-Broadway credits. 

Tuleja has appeared locally in productions at the Majestic and New Century Theatre, and in Gloucester Stage and Boston’s Actors’ Shakespeare Project and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company productions.

With the many costume quick-changes, Rohmann credited costume designer Christina Beam, whose creations also a high point in Silverthorne’s 2019 production of “The Revolutionists,” for her work building many outfits for the actors to slip in and out of in a matter of seconds. With the constant change of characters, Rohmann said, “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is a fun challenge for the actors, and “a hoot for our audience.”

“The Mystery of Irma Vep” Stage Manager, Cate Boram, was sound engineer for this summer’s radio drama production of “Foxfinder.” Silverthorne’s technical director, John Iverson will design the sets, lighting and sound for the production. It is noted that this production contains gunshot and smoke effects.

Silverthorne Theater says “Patrons should note our venue requires that they must be able to show proof (a card or photo of card) that they are fully vaccinated against COVID.” Masks are required for all patrons, regardless of vaccination status.

Tickets for “The Mystery of Irma Vep” start at $25 and are on sale now through Eventbrite. Full details for show times and tickets can be found on Silverthorne’s website, silverthornetheater.org/box_office/. For more information, email silverthornetheater@gmail.com or call 413-768-7514. Group rates are available. This play is suitable for children age 10 and up.

About Silverthorne Theater

Silverthorne Theater Company, a resident professional theater at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, is a registered nonprofit 501(c)(3) arts organization founded in 2014. The company’s mission “is to present adventurous, thought-provoking theatrical experiences, including productions of classic, contemporary and new works for diverse audiences.” For more information, contact at silverthornetheater@gmail.com or 413-768-7514.

Reporter Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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