“The Mystery Of Irma Vep” Live At The Rep


Estaban Andres Cruz and Tommy Everett Russell vamp it and camp it up in “The Mystery of Irma Vep” at the Rep. Photos: Jeremy Goldmeier

The latest Mainstage production at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is the Charles Ludlum send up of B movies, “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” with the usual twist- two male actors play all eight or so characters allowing for some marvelous and often unbelievable costume changes changing from ladies to men and back again in a whisper. It makes it especially  farcical that one of those actors wears a mustache throughout.


Tommy Everett Russell looms over Estaban Andres Cruz at the Rep’s “The Mystery Of Irma Vep.”

Directed by Nelson T. Eusebio III, the fast pace of this classic comedy seemed a bit hindered on opening night by some slow downs due to garbled words (what happened to the overhead mikes?) and some obviously dropped lines. Also, this play relies on silly schtick but this production may have had just a little too much. Case in point is the Egyptian dance that closes the first Act (too long) and then repeating it at the opening of Act Two.


Tommy Everett Russell struts as Lord Edgar’s current wife on stage at the Rep in “The Mystery Of Irma Vep.”

No complaints with the actors- Esteban Andres Cruz as the housemaid, Lord Edgar and several others is the one with the mustache and he is simply incredible. Voice and costume changes are fast and furious. While Tommy Everett Russell is equally adept at changing characters at the drop of a hat (or, in some cases a dress or a pair of pants). These two work wonders on and off stage and, despite some defying suspension of disbelieve, they carry off their characters with aplomb and humor.

“Irma Vep” was presented in the Studio Theatre in the 1992-93 season (yes, I had to look it up) and I remember it as being hilariously funny and so fast paced that I often thought of it as being a one-act. Had to look that up too and the original production was actually a three act play (though I can’t imagine the Studio Theatre had 3 acts). Hard to believe, especially after this one got bogged down a bit from time to time. I’m sure that was something probably unique to opening night and I’m sure they will get back on track as the run continues.


Estaban Andres Cruz screams in pain as he/she is treated roughly by Tommy Everett Russell in “The Mystery Of Irma Vep” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

The clever and eerie set design by Michael Locher was overwhelming but properly menacing, supported ably by Marie Yokoyama’s wonderful lighting plot. The costumes by Sara Ryung Clement were simply amazing and kudos to the voice and dialect coach, Joanna Battles who brought a lot of humor to these guys bringing each character to hilarious life.

So sorry that I’ve had to miss some of the wonderful things Hana S. Sharif has brought to the Rep so far as I’ve been reading some wonderful reviews. Actually, my wife and I finally got ensconced in our handicapped seating area once again- this time with a need for me as well as her.


Estaban Andres Cruz and Tommy Everett Russell wind up in a compromising position in “The Mystery Of Irma Vep” at the Rep.

Good luck to Hana and the entire Rep family for success early on in her first season and we look forward to the announcement of next season on February 27th. Actually they’ve already announced that a new adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” will be making a comeback and is expected to become a yearly fixture once again at the Rep. In the meantime, go see the hilarity of “The Mystery Of Irma Vep” playing at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through March 8th.

2 Responses to ““The Mystery Of Irma Vep” Live At The Rep”

  1. Chuck Lavazzi Says:

    Actually, no, it didn’t get any better. We saw it last weekend and it was slow and excruciatingly boring. There was a mass exodus of audience at intermission, including us.

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