Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Psycho Beach Party"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark

"Psycho Beach Party"

by Charles Busch

Directed by Mark Sickler
Choreography by Lauren Hall

Producers Ronni Marshak & Mario Salinas
Set Design by Kristin Hughes
Lighting Design by Dan Jentzen
Costume Design & Construction by Martha Heller
Hair/Wig/Makeup Consultant Kimmery H.O. Jones
Assistant Stage Manager Nicole Sparks
Stage Manager Mario Salinas

Chicklet..........Teresa McNamara
Kanaka.................Mike James
Berdine...........Stephane Haddad
Star Cat.............Jason Fenton
Marvel Ann......Maryellen Mitrano
Nicky.............Elizabeth Zaino
Bettina...............Lauren Hall
Provoloney...Anthony DiBartolomeo
Yo-Yo................Bill DeRusha
Mrs. Forrest...........Kami Crary
Double D........Scott Jason Cohen

Some of us survived the '60s by ignoring them; but for us there is Hope:
In act One of "Psycho Beach Party" Kanaka (The Big Kahuna) promises to teach Chicklet (the rather reluctant virgin) how to surf. In Act Two, he does! Imaging four buffed boys, a tall old surfing-guru and a short slender girl all in swim-wear face-down on the Hovey Players' stage, arms flailing, then one-by-one gradually rising, attempting to stand and to hang-ten, and falling back, in rumps-first wipe-outs --- all to a surfing-song of the sixties! Does life get any better than this?

Director Mark Sickler and Playwright Charles Busch know that "Beach Blanket Bingo" and its ilk had no serious relation to reality at all, and both enjoy pushing the envelope of satire to the max. Teresa McNamara plays Chicklet as young, sincere, and innocent --- until a sinister dragon-kite down the beach flips her into an Evil Twin dominatrix every once in a while. (Don't explain. Never explain!!It's the Style that counts!) Mike James as Kanaka meets his match, two of the guys eventually "come out", and Kami Crary as Chicklet's Mom gets to channel "Mommy Dearest" in a tight black sweater and big, Big hair! Stephanie Haddad's Berdine is the intellectual "heroine's friend" quoting Sartre and "that mad, mad Nietzsche guy" while restoring the moral center of the play. Then there's man-crazy Marvel Ann (Maryellen Mitrano) and her pals Bettina (Laurel Hall) and Nicky (Elizabeth Zaino) in Bikini's and top-siders frolicking in the aisles. Does life get any better than This? ? ?

So what if the dialogue whips by so fast you get every third word; Charles Busch ain't Shakespeare, but this is a laugh-riot galloping breakneck over broken stereotypes. Both girls and guys (Jason Fenton, Anthony DiBartolomeo, Scott Jason Cohen and Bill DeRusha) get to show off their, er, pecs, the age of innocence survives intact, and for those of us who survived the '60s long enough to be firmly ensconced in bald-head-row, life Doesn't get any better than this.


"Psycho Beach Party" (16 - 31 January)
@ Abbott Memorial Theater, 9 Spring Street at Joel's Way, WALTHAM MA
1 (781) 893-9171

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide