Harriet Power has been studying up on her Gothic horrors lately. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” the old Universal horror takes on “The Wolfman” and “The Mummy”: all required viewing before attempting to stage playwright Charles Ludlam’s penny dreadful satire “The Mystery of Irma Vep.”
“The actors and I were stunned by how directly Ludlam drew on certain characters, themes, storylines from those films,” says Power, Act II Playhouse’s associate artistic director. “It’s all there: the fluttering curtains at the window, the fog pouring through the open door, outlines being askew rather than orderly and straight. It reminded me a little bit of Shakespeare, who was unabashed in his range of sources but still created something thoroughly original.”
Ludlam’s show, which originally opened off-Broadway in 1984, is a parody of Victorian melodrama perfect for Halloween, confronting its cast with vampires, mummies, ghosts and werewolves. Reading the play for the first time, Power thought immediately of Pig Iron Theatre Company co-founder Dito van Reigersberg. “I thought, if Dito’s interested, it’s a go, and if he can’t, I wonder,” recalls Power.
Fortunately, van Reigersberg signed on, and along with co-star Luigi Sottile, he’ll be put through the paces playing eight characters in what Power calls “painful, dizzyingly short succession.”