Psycho Beach Party
The humor in Psycho Beach Party might seem as mindless as the targets, but with Naughty Austin's production the fun of guys in wigs, dancing hunks, and screaming chicks yanks you in
Reviewed by Patti Hadad, Fri., Sept. 29, 2006
Psycho Beach Party
Arts on Real, through Oct. 28
Three teen beach bunnies sit on blankets combing the sand for boys. One of the girls innocently changes into her swimsuit behind a towel, but when the towel falls, we get flashed by the chest of a slender young man, and he feigns a squeal in falsetto. If you didn't know better, you'd be scrambling for your program the moment they walked on stage and exclaiming, "Oh, wait, that's a dude!" But you'd really have to be naive not to know that one of Blake Yelavich's productions especially one with the title Psycho Beach Party isn't going to rope in some hunks who will coyly pull their Speedos down like the little girl chased by the dog in the Coppertone ad.
When Charles Busch first wrote this epitome of camp as a riff on 1960s beach-party movies, he titled it Gidget Goes Psycho, and you can still see why. His teen heroine is Chicklet, a plum-cheeked pariah suffering her coming-of-age in blackouts. Starcat replaces Moondoggie, and the Great Kanaka takes the place of Big Kahuna's curiously Hawaiian name in a Malibu setting. She is hopelessly seeking first base with Starcat, who is like totally going out with some other far-out chick named Marvel Ann. Chicklet uses Kanaka, who is teaching her how to surf, as bait for jealousy.
Her drag-queen mother frets over her daughter's virtue while she joins the pack of male surfers, two of whom seem to enjoy applying lotion and wrestling or playing dress-up at a B-movie actress' luau. When surfers at the bottom of the social hierarchy (where the transvestites are prettier than the women) begin disappearing, we discover from the "dragnet" aka cross-dressing detective Monica Stark that all the victims have some deformity, like psoriasis or a single testicle.
Sexual innuendo runs wild throughout the show. When Errich Petersen's Starcat, a Mr. Nice Guy surfer with glasses, tells Breanna Stogner's Chicklet about necking with his girlfriend, he goes into a little too much detail including fellatio and sends the disgusted ingenue fleeing into the night. There's harping on homoeroticism that's built up with a few peek-a-boo shots and even a full-frontal from gay porn star Matthew Rush, who acts surprisingly giddy for someone of his body mass. Despite the off-color humor meant for teenyboppers, however, the show is otherwise porn-free. It's as likely to rely on cheap gags from dudes in Hawaiian shirts to spawn laughs, like Chris Sykes' self-important poses as Kanaka.
With her comedic ingenuity, Stogner just kills as the wiggling, giggly girl whose personality splits into an unhinged sadomasochist named Ann Bowen and a head-wagging home girl who "don't take no lip." The humor might seem as mindless as the targets, but the fun of guys in wigs, dancing hunks, and screaming chicks yanks you in. Rebecca Robinson's choreography of the tandem surfing bits and the large tiki masks on the skirts of the stage provide wackiness without going overboard. To describe this production that surges with parody as gnarly, righteous, or peachy keen would totally wipe out under Naughty Austin's psychedelic rainbow coloring.