Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Psycho Beach Party"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi

"Psycho Beach Party"

Reviewed by Carl A. Rossi


by Charles Busch
directed by Andrew Boch

Berdine ….. Maggie Lehrman
Bettina Barnes ….. Jojo Karlin
Chicklet ….. Mimi Asnes
Dee-Dee ….. David Skeist
Kanaka ….. Cary McClelland
Marvel Ann ….. Perry Fleisig-Greene
Mrs. Forrest ….. Rebecca Kastleman
Provoloney ….. Nicholas Meunier
Starcat ….. Georgie Broadwater
Yo-Yo ….. Tom Price

This college production of Charles Busch’s parody of 1960s beach movies could easily be summed up as klunky, amateurish fun – which it is – but it has the added fascination of watching young actors immersing themselves in Camp; Camp geared to a gay sensibility.

Chicklet (read “Gidget”), a diminutive groupie, has her heart set on becoming a member of the surfing crowd, and she enlists the services of Kanaka (read “Big Kahuna”), King of the Surfers, on how to Hang Ten. Mr. Busch has Chicklet suffer from multiple personalities (due to a forbidding mother), the most prominent one being “Ann Bowman”, who is very much the dominatrix and has a passion for shaving her sleeping victims from head to toe. But by play’s end, Chicklet’s perky personality triumphs, and she captures the heart of surfer Starcat (read “Moondoggie”).

Boston’s Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans could easily play PSYCHO BEACH PARTY in their sleep, but the Harvard-Radcliffe company lack the knowingness, the over-the-top flamboyance, the “gay”-ness needed to pull it off; instead, they perform PSYCHO BEACH PARTY straight, in both senses of the word. How odd to see young women playing roles that cry out for dragsters, or to witness such moments as Chicklet’s mother pulling a jockstrap out of her cleavage, Kanaka and Starcat handling dildos, or Starcat suavely and graphically describing his lovemaking techniques to Chicklet – all done sans any sense of outrageousness. Even the surprise kiss between Provoloney and Yo-Yo (two male surfers) is matter-of-factly executed simply because the script calls for it. (For the record, the production boasts one performer in deliberately unconvincing drag, but the role is a mere walk-on.)

That said, Mimi Asnes (Chicklet), though a bit of a bully, does an impressive turn with her vocal range and dialects; Cary McClelland (Kanaka) and Rebecca Kastleman (Mrs. Forrest) are amusing enough as the play’s two grown-ups who have kinks of their own, and Nicholas Meunier and Tom Price have a sweet rapport as the buddies-soon-to-be-lovers.

The production’s “soundtrack” consists of 60s rock ‘n’ roll songs used to comment on the action, but director/designer Andrew Boch’s idea of fading out is to simply switch the sound off. Camp, like anything else, is an art form; youth, inexperience or clumsiness needn’t steer it into Shlock.

"Psycho Beach Party" (2 - 16 August)
Loeb Experimental Theatre, 64 Brattle Street, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (617) 496-2222

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