Occasionally, a theater produces a show that leaves such a lasting impression on audiences, they keep wanting more. Such is the case with Ken Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep, produced by Balagula Theatre in 2008.
"Ever since it first ran six years ago — almost since the day after the show closed — people have repeatedly been asking us when we are going to do it again," says Ryan Case, who starred in the two-person comedy and is the co-artistic director at Balagula.
After six years of requests, the theater is reviving the play in its new home at the Farish Theater this week, appropriately marking a new era in the theater's history much like the 2008 Irma Vep, which was the first fully staged production in the then-new theater space next to Natasha's Bistro.
"It was a nice way to bridge those two stages in the theater's life" says Case, "and to not only bring new productions to the Farish theater but also bring our audiences over as well with something familiar and something they loved."
Never miss a local story.
Serendipitously, the theater's latest new era coincided with the return of Case's original co-star and friend, Shayne Brakefield, who had left Kentucky for New York City not long after the last Irma Vep show.
While living in New York, Brakefield trained at the prestigious William Esper Studio and studied improv with the Upright Citizens Brigade. But Brakefield made a conscious decision not to dive into the city's theater scene.
"I decided I didn't want that lifestyle," Brakefield says. "I was like, 'I know I can do this, but I don't want to.'"
"Some people love it there, but I never did. It was just too crowded and loud and expensive, and every time I would come back home to visit here, my anxiety level would just decrease by like 75 percent."
There is a "getting the band back together" feeling about the 2014 production, but both Brakefield and Case have changed immensely.
Brakefield says his training has given him more confidence and competence across the board and specifically, with Ludlam's zany script.
"I was able to make more sense of it because I understand ... how to look at a script differently," Brakefield says. "I've learned, too, not to depend so much on a director but to bring a lot of ideas to a director, and they can say this works and this doesn't."
"He's truly grown as an actor," Case says of his co-star. "I always thought he was amazingly talented, incredibly funny, but he's taken it up a notch. He's sharpened his tools, and that makes him dangerous onstage."
Case himself has spent six years growing beyond acting to frequently direct, produce and run a theater full-time.
"He's only gotten better," Brakefield says of Case. "He's directed a lot more, and I think that's changed him a lot."