Thursday, June 26, 2008

Psycho Beach Party

They had me at the name.

I mean really, how can you go to something called "Psycho Beach Party" and not have fun? The name just sounds like good, campy fun -- and good, campy fun it was. It was like watching an MST3K of some goofy Teenage Werewolves Hit the Beach-type movie, with its absurd plot (really? Switching from one identity to another in Multiple Personality Disorder can be triggered by a common word?); its pointless, yet sort of enjoyable dance interludes; and its uninformed stereotypes of teenage kids and teenage slang as written by adults who want to create a hip, with-it movie, but have apparently lost all memory of high school (at least here the author, Charles Busch, seems to be in on the joke and parodying the teenage werewolf beach blanket movies).

The only real difference is that in Psycho Beach Party, the actors get both the cornball dialogue and the witty lines, instead of saving the witty lines for puppets. A sampling of the gems you're in for: "You have the sex drive of a marshmallow." "You have the most amazing eyelashes I've ever seen on any mammal." "I should get the Purple Heart just for being seen with you two."

There were a few drawbacks to holding the play in the Neurolux, the main one being that the venue's ventilation system makes it tough to hear performers that aren't using amps. Most of the time the actors did just fine projecting their voices, but there were a few moments that it was hard to hear -- most notably when the main character, Chicklet, played by Jacqueline Morales, has several personality shifts, one after another in immediate succession. They all have different voices, and Morales was having a hard time shifting her voice that quickly and keeping her volume up (not always an easy trick.)

This was a great ensemble cast. They worked well together, keeping the pace of the show moving quickly and creating some wonderful moments of physical comedy, notably the big kiss between Skip de Fabry and Derek Patterson; Morales, Sarah Handren and Angela DeRisio's "animal magnetism"; and John Gibbons, who played Mrs. Forrest in drag, waving around a jock strap.

Many of the characters are supposed to be typical teenagers and surfer dudes, so it's hard to call out many actors for their performances except Chicklet (whose jumps from eager Chicklet to seductive Anne Bowman were quite enjoyable), her bitchy friend Marvel Ann (DeRisio, who pulls off the queen-bee-gets-her-comeuppance storyline with aplomb), her Sartre and Nietzsche-quoting friend (Handren, who was eagerly and deliciously nerdy), and Gibbons (a guy in drag's always going to get laughs, but he got a lot. I suspect that he had a lot of friends in the audience. Still, he deserved the laughs even from strangers). These were the only characters in the script that got much character development -- and even they are stereotypes (tomboy, queen bee, nerdy friend ... uh ... overbearing, strangely mannish yet effeminate mother?). But they're campy, fun stereotypes. So go for the good, campy fun.

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