“The Mystery of Irma Vep” is a tale of murder, mystery and two actors taking on the role of eight different characters.
Rhett Luedtke, the director, said the performance is a Victorian murder mystery focusing on two recently married characters and an ex-wife who dies.
“We have two actors, both men,” he said. “They play all eight characters in the play. There’s a lot of cross-dressing.”
Luedtke said the play, written by Charles Ludlam, was written to be a piece of theater for Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company. The cross-dressing is supposed to add humor to the show.
The play was mainly written to see how fast two men could change between characters, Luedtke said. The longest costume and character change in the play is about thirty seconds and the shortest is around ten seconds.
These changes consist of complete changes from one Victorian-style costume to another, said Daniel Haley, one of the actors.
Luedtke said this brings up some challenges to the cast and crew. Instead of their normal number of technical and dress rehearsals, Luedtke had to schedule in twice as many to make sure opening night goes smoothly.
There are three wardrobe managers and each actor has a quick-change crew to help them get in and out of the costumes, Luedtke said.
Haley said he learned to trust his quick-change crew completely.
“You memorize who’s doing what, and you kind of give yourself over,” Haley said. “It’s kind of like a pit crew for NASCAR. They do everything, I just stand there.”
Cole Cook, the other actor for this performance, said they began working on lines for this show in May, a month before they started rehearsals.
“It took me about three and a half weeks to just memorize,"he said."And that was about five days a week for maybe five hours a day just memorizing."
Haley said they were given rehearsal costumes to help them remember which character they were playing at a given time. This was usually an article of clothing or a prop to help the actor orient themselves with who they were supposed to be.
Cook said the show pokes fun at gender, theater and society, among other things. The message of the show is accepting who we are, he said.
“In the end, (the characters) all in some way find satisfaction, except for our villain,” Luedtke said. “If you want to see actors at their best, come to this.”
The first showing will be at 7:30 p.m. on July 5 in the University of Idaho Hartung Theater. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students and children under 12.