There are only a few chances left to see the critically acclaimed performances of Carl Nathaniel Smith and Joel Guerrero in Hedgerow Theatre’s production of Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep, which runs through April 6. Audiences and critics alike have commented on how well they work together in the two-man show. a madcap spoof of classic horror movies in which they play many parts and have 35 costume changes. This may be a result not just of their talent but that they grew up in the same west-central Texas town and have known each other for years.
“I first met Joel when he was a high-school sophomore and I was a college freshman,” Smith recalled. “I was choreographer for Seussical the Musical at San Angelo Central High School (where, coincidentally, his mother, Laura, teaches theater), and Joel played Horton.” “That’s it exactly,” Guerrero agreed. “Carl taught me how to dance like an elephant.”
Smith was the first to venture north. After graduating from Angelo State University with a degree in theatre, French and music, he worked as a production assistant at Texas Family Musicals in Granbury, where he met his now-wife Sarah Gafgen and learned of Hedgerow. “Sarah had taken a summer off from her Acting Fellowship at Hedgerow to work as a producing stage manager in Texas,” Smith said. “She felt I would be a good fit from watching me work. I tend to get my hands in every aspect of a show and I needed to find a company that would let me do that but also allow me to get on stage and act. I visited in September 2008, came back in October and stayed for three years.” He has since performed at a number of other local venues and recently joined Actors Equity.
Guerrero arrived in January 2013 at the recommendation of Smith. “I had graduated from Angelo State and had been working as the youth instructor at Angelo Civic Theatre,” he remembered. “I was looking to expand my experience and Carl told me it was a nice way to get a foot in the door of the professional world, but with a nice family vibe. In Texas, everyone did a little bit of everything at the theatre and was well-rounded, and it’s the same at Hedgerow.” He has certainly done just that, having acted, directed numerous children’s plays, taught classes and summer camps, among other things.
The pair previously appeared together at Hedgerow in Pride and Prejudice last spring, but The Mystery of Irma Vep is a completely different experience, as the two of them transform into multiple characters, some of them female. “Joel and I don’t like to think of it as playing different roles, but as being unique actors portraying those characters,” Smith explained. “[Director] Jared Reed was instrumental in tweaking us to remember we were completely different people, each with a different center of gravity and demeanor.”
For Guerrero, sharing the stage with his friend in this show is “a dream come true.” “We’re both 100% dependent on the other since we’re the only actors,” he commented. “Since Carl was older I always looked up to him and wanted to be be like him. Not many people get the chance to work with a mentor.”
The final performances are at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2; 7:30 p.m. on April 3 and 4; 8 p.m. on April 5; and 2 p.m. on April 6. At intermission during the Saturday show, there will be a beer-tasting sponsored by Quotations, a Media restaurant at 37 E. State Street, known for its rotating list of craft and imported brews.
Only 8 more chances to let this comic duo from Texas tickle your funny bone. Purchase tickets.