Don’t be surprised if the characters in “El Misterio de Irma Vap” look alike; all of them, both male and female, are played by only two actors. The show—which was directed by Miriam E. Psychas ’13 and ran at the Adams Pool Theater from November 8 to 10—was a production filled with humorous and bizarre scenes that tell the tale of the haunting of wealthy Mexican estate. Like many TEATRO! productions, the play was completely done in Spanish—although the original version, written by Charles Ludlam in 1984 was in English. “Irma Vap” succeeded in humorously poking fun at Telenovelas and typical Hispanic stock characters through solid acting and well executed, purposefully cheesy sound effects.
The play follows Lord Edgar (Enzo V. Toral ’14), his wife Lady Enid (Joao A. Vogel ’16), his servant Nicodemo (Vogel), and the family maid Jane (Toral) as they begin to unravel the dark history of Edgar’s past. Filled with stories of werewolves, mummies, and the walking dead, the plot gets thicker and more convoluted as the characters reveal both their intentions and their inner demons, literally.
Toral took charge of the stage from the very beginning: even his body language demanded attention. The Pool has a lot of room for just two actors, but Toral knew to pace the stage and use many grand hand gestures to hide that fact and to fill the space up with his character’s personality. For example, Toral started the show as Jane, a stereotypical gossipy, stressed, and uptight maid similar to the ones found in many Spanish novellas. He used dramatic facial expressions and voice fluctuations to brings that character to life. When Jane explained the family’s haunted history to Enid, Toral used exaggerated whispers, often hanging on a specific word, to highlight the spookiness of the story and the ridiculousness of the situation.
Vogel was far less believable as an actual female character than Toral, but he also has his shining moments as the funny yet annoying spouse Lady Enid. He is constantly adjusting his fake boobs or laughing as he toys with his far too extravagant blonde wig. Some shows might have actors who try to believably portray characters of the opposite sex, but In “Irma Vap” the costumes were so purposefully simple that it was obvious the cross-dressing was purely for comic effect. The use of cross-dressing to get laughs was made explicit throughout the production, and is even found in the script. For example, at one point Vogel as Lady Enid says “Qualquier hombre que se viste como mujer no puede ser tan malo,” meaning, “Any man that dresses like a woman can’t be so bad.” Admitting the play’s oddities and putting them out in the open is ironic and witty, and this self-awareness becomes one of the key components in making the play so humorous.
The tacky sound effects added the finishing touches that made “Irma Vap” an entertaining piece of theater. Sound designers Marisol E. Herrera ’13 and David R. Grieder ’14 employed well known sounds from horror movies—such as the infamous track that accompanies the shower scene in “Psycho”—to underscore supposedly terrible events. However, these noises were all obviously out of place and were cut off bluntly without any fading or transition. These effects added a sense of humor and self awareness to the show that created a fun atmosphere while simultaneously exaggerating the drama of the production.
“El Misterio de Irma Vap” succeeded brilliantly thanks to its marvelous actors, silly sounds, and hilariously overdone drama. The cast and crew managed to not only bring a typical telenovela to the stage, but also to fulfill TEATRO!’s aim of bringing Latin American theater to a wider audience.