Two men, eight characters, dozens of rapid costume changes and a whole lot of improv. The Actor’s Preparatory Exchange took to the big stage at the historic Liberty Theatre once again to perform “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” starring TJC student Josh Carpenter and Nate McKellar.

Another first for both Tyler and APEX, “Irma Vep” is the hilarious story of an egytologist, his new bride and their very odd servants. Carpenter and McKellar play every character, leading to some hilarious scenes when interaction is required by a character the actor also plays.

“The Mystery of Irma Vep” is a penny dreadful written by acclaimed playwright Charles Ludlam in 1984. This version sees APEX’s Felicity Enas directing.

“Irma Vep” opens in the parlor of Mandacrest Estate with Lady Enid (McKellar), complaining to the maid Jane (Carpenter), that her new groom is still stuck on his long dead wife. It’s obvious from the first scene that Jane isn’t quite fond of her new mistress. Soon after, Lord Edgar arrives dragging a wolf’s carcass into the drawing room.

“But that’s the wrong wolf,” Jane tells the groundskeeper Nicodemus. From this point the mystery begins to unfold, only to have more and more intrigue piled upon it. After Lord Edgar fights off a werewolf using Nicodemus’ wooden leg, Edgar decides the answers he seeks lie in Egypt.

The beginning of Act 2 finds Lord Edgar searching the Egyptian desert for an unsullied tomb, with a less than trustworthy guide. Once inside the tomb, Carpenter sends away his guide and performs an absolutely hilarious ritual in order to bring the mummified princess back to life. Lord Edgar ultimately fails to fully revive his princess, but insists on bringing the sarcophagus back home, hoping to one day get the ritual right.

Upon his return to Mandacrest, the already fast paced play kicks it into overdrive and the jokes and costume changes start coming at a furious pace.

While there were some technical difficulties with lighting and sound cues, they only served to give the actors an opportunity to showcase their improv skills. The funniest moments were almost always unscripted. McKellar and Carpenter are stellar in their roles, refusing to let the bumps throw them off.

It is mindboggling to think that there were only three people behind the scenes helping to pull this feat off. The last time APEX took the stage at the Liberty for “Rent,” their cast and crew numbered in the dozens.

Next up for the APEX Theatre is “God of Carnage,” running April 18-26 at their home stage at 20 Potter Place, behind the historic Energy Building on Front Street. “Carnage” stars TJC’s Matthew Butler, last seen as the lead in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” in an intimate story about two couples trying to resolve an issue stemming from a conflict between their children. “Carnage” also features former TJC theatre student Allison Pharr.

For more information, visit www.apextheatre20.com.

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