It's going to be a little bit mystery and a whole lot of funny when the Armstrong State University Masquers present the spoof "The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful" from Sept. 25-28.
"It's quite an intriguing show," says director Travis Hornsby. "We have a random batch of people, including a sympathetic werewolf, a brash Egyptian princess, a vindictive housemaid.
"Then there's the master of the house, who is emotionally vacant," he says. "It runs the gamut of a bunch of random characters all thrown into a melting pot."
Playwright Charles Ludlum based his play on the Alfred Hitchcock film "Rebecca," which itself is based on Daphne du Maurier's novel of the same name.
"The playwright really loved that movie, as well as other horror movies of that era," Hornsby says. "He sought to unite all those elements together.
"The basic plot of 'Rebecca' had a wealthy widower who remarries and brings his new wife back to his estate. His new wife starts to wonder what happened to his former wife.
"We sort of pick up with mysterious characters and it's a farce," Hornsby says. "We're sort of tying Alfred Hitchcock's work into modern pieces with werewolves, vampires and ghosts."
While "Rebecca" was quite serious, "Irma" is anything but.
"It's hilarious," Hornsby says. "The script itself is really brilliant."
Lord Edgar and his new wife, Lady Enid, come to live in the large Mandacrest estate. The housekeeper, Jane, and grounds keeper, Nicodemus, are devoted to Lord Edgar's first wife, Irma, who died under mysterious circumstances, and Lady Enid is determined to get to the truth.
The play won an Obie Award in 1984. Hornsby is a graduate of the Armstrong theater program and chose the play for the Masquers' fall season.
"Making its stage debut here in Savannah was something that was very important to me," he says. "It's a fun show and totally employs my eclectic type of humor.
"I had the opportunity to direct 'Cactus Flower' back in 2012 and found my niche - farce, The absurd and downright silly nature of farce is entertaining and strangely captivating.
"Our show is ridiculous," Hornsby says. "It maintains character-driven plot lines and throws in a mix of situations, familiar references and paranormal creatures. Add to that a large amount of props and costumes being juggled by cross-dressing actors and you have a piece of theater that will leave you laughing."
Poor Irma has reason to be suspicious.
"The first wife's portrait is prominently displayed in the house," Hornsby says. "She's living in the shadow of a woman she's never met.
"The fun is that all these characters are played by just three actors: Jonathan Handley, Tristan Carlson and Justin Davis. All the characters are played by three guys.
"Shakespeare did that whole cross-dressing thing," Hornsby says. "We pay homage to that."
In addition to directing the show, Hornsby is also doing the costume design.
"I come from a background of doing costuming," he says. "I was sort of recruited into directing as well as costuming the show.
"The costuming is a challenge. We have a lot of costumes, but you have to do it in a way that the actors can change quickly.
"The costumes must be easily removed to keep the pace going," he says. "It's meant to be fast-paced and up-tempo."
Another challenge was keeping the actors in line.
"Whenever we first started, there were a lot of jokes," Hornsby says. "They run the gamut of being very subtle to being blatant.
"We've had moments of breaking character," he says. "But we've gotten to the place now where we are more focused and able to deliver lines."
Hornsby approached the theater faculty about directing the play for a couple of reasons.
"I wanted more directorial experience," he says. "I also thought it would be a good fit for the student base we had here.
"We've repurposed the previous set here for our show. They were very excited about that."
As an actor, when Hornsby came across Ludlum's work, he fell in love with it.
"At points, it was sort of serious and heartwarming," Hornsby says. "It's a funny show that has something for everyone. We're having fun doing it and I think our audience members will enjoy it."