Written by Patrick Chavis
Theatre Out is not modest about anything it does. Even its name speaks to the transparency of its shows. When directed in the right way, this can be a strength. As I nestled down in my seat amongst a small audience divided into those wearing Hawaiian shirts and everyone else, I was bombarded with a scene by scene, in your face comedy that holds no punches and goes places that would make Andy Kaufman blush. With an outstanding cast and breakout performances from the two (sort of) leading ladies, Psycho Beach Party leaves you a little bamboozled. It might be the most brilliant or brainless show I’ve ever seen. Whatever I just saw, I couldn’t look away.
Psycho Beach Party is the story of a mild mannered, slightly nerdy girl named Chicklet (Andrew J. Villarreal) who is trying to fit in with the beach crowd. In her quest to become more popular, Chicklet casts aside her best friend Berdine (Alexis Stansfield) in order to get closer to two surfer dudes. One is legendary surf bum Kanka (played by Ben Green), and the other is Kanka’s new apprentice Star Cat (played by Ian James). As Chicklet gets closer to her new surfer pals, the audience learns she has a deep rooted identity disorder which causes her to unleash a myriad of different personalities at any given moment –the most dominant being a sexually aggressive dominatrix type dubbed Ann Bowman.
Psycho Beach Party started out as a joke title Charles Busch would tell his audiences back in the day when he was performing at a theatre called the Limbo Lounge, located somewhere in New York City’s East Village. At the time they had no money for advertising, so he would do a curtain speech to inspire people to sign the mailing list. He would invent fake titles off the top of his head with no intention of actually doing the plays. One night’s punch line was that the next show would be Gidget Goes Psychotic. For those unaware, Gidget was originally a character in a book that was adapted into a series of movies during the 1950s and 1960s. It was later made into a television series in 1965. Gidget really is the archetype for the young, wholesome Surfer Girl wanting to fit in and be a part of the surf culture, which at the time was seen as a boys’ sport. Busch’s parody title was a huge hit with the crowds, and Busch continued to use it despite never planning on actually writing the show. However, Ken Elliot, his Director/Producer at the time, mentioned they had been promoting this show for years and thought it would be a great idea for a play. According to Busch, he kept most of the typical characters in a beach movie but added a twist to many of them –especially the Gidget character since Busch intended to play the lead role in this wacky spoof himself.
In keeping with original production, the Gidget character in this story is named Chicklet (Andrew J. Villarreal) and is played by a man. The usual “oh, this is a man playing a girl” jokes aren’t the main focus. We can attribute this to the performance. Villarreal’s Chicklet is phenomenal. What’s funny is not that he looks like Paul Dano in drag (though he does). Villarreal does something even well seasoned actors have trouble doing, he truly transforms himself into this character. Every moment when Villarreal is on stage is authentic, and he is perfectly matched with onstage best friend Berdine (Alexis Stansfield). Stansfield matches Villarreal with a performance that accurately portrays and makes fun of the naive and inner rantings of an outsider who simultaneously hates and loves the place she is in. Stansfield’s solo scenes where she unloads her thoughts are childish and funny from the audience’s perspective. But these are real things people deal with and think about. Though something might seem like a serious issue right now, in the future we have no idea what its going to look like– we might just laugh about it.
That’s what a spoof is –a cartoonish look back at where we’ve been. Staying true to the subject matter, director Tito Ortiz produces a play with a no frills and a dynamite cast. This show is Theatre Out in top form with plenty of raunchy goodness.
Sep 18, 2015 – Oct 24, 2015
Side note: This is a show for adults.
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