What is a man, other than a miserable pile of secrets? The Mystery of Irma Vep is a vampiric satire of Victorian melodrama and monster-pulp, written by the great playwright, performer, artist, and theater-rebel Charles Ludlam. (Not to be confused with the similarly great Charles Pierce or Charles Busch, who have engaged in similar lines of work in slightly-overlapping eras.) Ludlam was a fascinating and wonderful weirdo whose work only occasionally filters up to mainstream media: A passing appearance on Miami Vice; a hysterical female impersonation next to his old friend Madeline Kahn on the forgotten '80s sitcom Oh Madeline. This particular play is his most famous (what, you’ve never seen his other masterpiece, Turds in Hell?) and features two actors playing eight characters in a quick-changing, cross-dressing, scenery-chomping romp. In the same way that Serial Mom is a good entry into the work of John Waters, consider Irma Vep a comfortable introduction to Ludlam’s ridiculous and revolutionary style.

The Mystery of Irma Vep runs from Feb 8 to 26 at Erickson Theatre at 1524 Harvard Ave. It also streams online from Feb 21 to 27.

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