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High-energy play opens today in Salado

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Posted: Friday, October 5, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 10:15 pm, Sun Oct 14, 2012.

By Audrey Spencer

Killeen Daily Herald

SALADO — With many thanks to Velcro, “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” a “comedy-satire-parody” of Gothic melodramas and vintage horror movies, opens today at the Salado Silver Spur Theater.

The theater will present the spoof show, featuring a two-man cast playing eight characters — about half of them female — and enduring 35 costume changes in two hours, Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 27.

“Begin with a sympathetic werewolf, a vampire and an Egyptian princess brought to life when her tomb is opened,” said co-director Melodee Lenz in a statement. “Add in the lightning-quick costume changes, a large number of sound cues, props and special effects and you get a comedy that has everything.”

To gain rights to perform “Irma Vep,” the two actors must be the same gender and cross-dress for the roles.

“This show is a workout,” said Grainger Esch, actor and artistic director at the theater. “Both of us are constantly on stage or doing a lightning-fast costume change.”

Even when off the small stage, some scenes require the actor to continue speaking to the on-stage comrade.

“We’re still acting while we’re changing clothes,” said Esch.

The physical demands of the costume changes are matched only by the mental character-swaps the roles require.

“There are a lot of specific regional British dialects that have to be nailed,” said Lenz. “If it was just costume changes, they wouldn’t be sweating so much. A lot of it is this mental switching gears. That can be a bit nuts.”

Both Esch and Logan Kimes, the second actor in the theater’s production, enjoy Act III, where their characters get to be extra physical and run around the stage.

Kimes estimates about 20 costume changes for his role, and less than 30 seconds to make each one.

“Constant action,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do as a performer on stage.”

Besides having fun with the novelty of teaching men to behave femininely, Lenz said a lot of consideration was given to set design.

Described as a “throwback to

monster movies,” the set incorporates

 elements such as trapdoors and

magician’s techniques.

“It’s to create an illusion,” she said. “We had to use that approach with everything, including how do we make Logan and Grainger look like women when they’re not.”

Considered appropriate for all ages, “Irma Vep” allows its actors to break the fourth wall and interact with its audience. It also features themes relevant to the interests of the modern age, despite being written in the 1980s.

“All the horror movies are so huge, and the spoofs of horror movies are huge,” said Lenz. “Everybody loves the supernatural, and this has all of that in it. All ages are going to like it because it’s very ‘Monty Python’ in the way it’s delivered. It’s like a living comic book.”

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