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New company at Butte Theater in Colorado opens season with vampires, mummies, ghosts

June 7, 2018
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photo - In "The Mystery of Irma Vep," two actors, Christopher Joel Onken and Levi Penle, must play eight characters. That means male and female roles and about 35 costume changes. The show by Mountain Rep Theatre opens Friday at The Butte Theater in Cripple Creek. Courtesy The Butte Theater.
In "The Mystery of Irma Vep," two actors, Christopher Joel Onken and Levi Penle, must play eight characters. That means male and female roles and about 35 costume changes. The show by Mountain Rep Theatre opens Friday at The Butte Theater in Cripple Creek. Courtesy The Butte Theater. 

By Mountain Rep Theatre, opens 7 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Fridays, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays, 1 and 7 p.m. June 14, runs through June 17, The Butte Theater, 139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, $18-$21; 689-6402, buttetheater.com.

What do you get when you mix Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film "Rebecca" with Emily Brontë's 1847 novel "Wuthering Heights" and add dollops of Victorian melodrama, farce and penny dreadfuls?

"The Mystery of Irma Vep."

Mountain Rep Theatre's production of Charles Ludlam's 1984 farce will kick off The Butte Theater's new season in Cripple Creek. It opens Friday and runs through June 17.

Lord Edgar and his wife, Lady Enid, live at Mandacrest Estate in the shadow of Edgar's first wife, the now deceased Irma Vep (an anagram of the word vampire). One of the bloodsucking creatures attacks Enid, and chaos ensues, full of mummies, werewolves, ghosts and mistaken identities.

To add to the madcap antics, the eight characters are performed by two actors (Christopher Joel Onken and Levi Penley), who take on male and female roles and about 35 costume changes.

"I find it to be so much fun because of the challenge for the actors in the show," said director Kyle Dean Steffen. "It's wild once it gets going; it just clips. It's a more campy style, which is a good time."

After Thin Air Theatre Company announced it wouldn't return after its 11th season last year, the Butte Theater board awarded the in-house theater company contract to Mountain Rep for the 2018 professional season.

"We're trying to build out into some bigger shows," said Emily Andrews, Butte Theater's executive director. "And have that high quality and get really professional shows under our belt and be a contending theater. We also want to dig deep into our roots at the Butte and find that classic melodrama and accessible aspect of theater that people respond to so much."

JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM

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