PSYCHO BEACH PARTY
by Charles Busch
The Midtown Theater
Charleston, South Carolina - November 1998
The Village Playhouse
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina - July 2002
Crazy About Pluff Mud
BY S.E. BARCUS
Charleston City Paper 10/1998
OK -- right quick. You’ve got this corning week-end only to catch Pluff Mud doing Charles Busch’s campy Psycho Beach Party. So forget whatever you were planning because no movie, rock band or other theatrical event comes close, kiddies.... I ask you, where else are you going to get drag queens, creative and sexy dance numbers, virgin queers, sex goddesses, geeks spouting philosophy, jokes, drugs, Peruvian statues, and maybe the best comedic actress of all time? Nowhere, my friends. Simply nowhere.
Anna Warren’s character, Chicklet, has Dissociative Identity Disorder (“she’s wack with a whole mess o’ people inside her”). This allows her to play several characters -- from the sweet little Annette Funicello to sexy dominatrix to bad ass black girl to the most intellectual of counselors -- and she does so without dropping a beat. Sweet, sexy, bad-ass and intellectual-Warren exemplifies each.
Warren and co-star Samantha Andrews compete for the title of the funniest actress in town... She is once again perfect in her delivery, and once again plays a dumb blonde.
Jennifer Croker-Pool is excellent as a geeky dyke-to-be, Berdine, who drops philosophy jokes throughout. Keely Enright as the cocktease Presbyterian, Marvel Ann, is also perfect.
Christopher Yandle and Jeff Jordan (as Yo Yo and Provoloney) play their beachbum-unconscious-virgin-fag-scriptdoctorwannabes like Blue Lagoon lovers on acid. Dave Reinwald is kinda square as the cute surfer, Star Cat, but it’s OK -- he’s really a closeted psychiatrist. There’s a Luke Skywalker quality to Reinwald that I just can’t put my finger on....Pre-Jedi Knight, methinks.
Rob Duren gives us the California guru: praising beach instead of Buddha, bong instead of hookah. Finally, the most crowd-pleasing actor (as always in a campy show) was...Dick Latham, who plays a big, beautiful mother to Chicklet and her psychoses. Dick is divine.
Besides the funniest script this year with the best acting, you get dance numbers. Jennifer Metts choreographed a dance seemingly from Hair, only its ‘90s drugs they’re into now: Prozac, Zoloft, Viagra, etc. -- all very apropos for the play -- and a very cathartic moment/or all crazies........the show opens with some sexy freak-out strobe light, hula hoop madness that gets everyone rocking. This opening number in black light was actually envisioned by Co-Director, Steve Lepre, and is what inspired him to do the show. As most of us now know, the task almost killed the man. It is not every program that reads, “Thanks to Dr. West (for saving my life).” After a postponement of the play and a move to the Midtown Theater, Co-Director Robin Shuler finished the job seamlessly. Tight, fast, funny. The set? Boards painted with freaky Peruvian statues and sheets painted with waves-that’s it. And yet, with little spent on the doll’s house, the actors expertly created “scene.” We never once felt we were anywhere but the beach. Thank the gods that Lepre is all right -- if we’re lucky, he’ll have more visions, and Charleston’ll have more groovy theater.
Beach Lunacy Hits Midtown
BY ROBERT JONES
Charleston City Paper 10/1998
Psycho Beach Party, an inspired piece of lunacy by Charles Busch, made an uproarious impact at the Midtown Theatre. The audience would have laughed and clapped into the wee hours if the actors had let them. The play is a send up of those 1950s beach movies that once wasted our teen years. It also dishes movie queens like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Annette Funicello. There’s also a bit of Sartre and Nietzsche. Busch’s script is hilarious, packed with zany situations and expressed in outrageous words that now, as the millennium zeroes in on us, sound sweet and curiously innocent.
Psycho Beach Party’ is a comic dream of past youth - my youth, anyway, and probably yours, too.
In the experienced hands of Pluff Mud directors Steve Lepre and Robin Shuler, the show soars on the wings of laughter. Prime instigators of that laughter are Dick Latham as a mother from hell, and Anna Warren, her nubile daughter, Chicklet, who boasts more multiple personalities than the collected works of Freud.
Christopher Yandle and Jeff Jordan are irresistible as beach bums who discover true love underwater, and Dave Reinwald glows like a grin as a surfboarder with over-explicit ideas about sex. Rob Duren plays the ultimate jock, and Keely Enright the ultimate bitch. Samantha Andrews and Jennifer Croker-Pool fill out the cast as an overbearing movie star, and an under confident friend.
Bravos to them all, and an extra bravo for Jennifer Metts, who dreamed up some memorably wacky dances.
Quirky, talented cast entertains in hilarious Psycho Beach Party
BY DOTTIE ASHLEY
Charleston City Paper 07/2002
When Dick Latham, in drag, lip-synchs Lady Is a Tramp, the hilarity is unabashed in Psycho Beach Party, playing each weekend through August at the Village Playhouse.
As nerd-brain Berdine quotes a famous philosopher, “We must strive for tragic optimism,” this is exactly what playwright Charles Busch does in this crazy, dark spoof of 1960s Gidget beach movies with a tinge of Roger Corman horror flicks.
Director and scenic designer Steve Lepre uses eight small television sets surrounding the stage to show scenes of various characters superimposed against huge Malibu-style waves, as the protagonist, Chicklet, aspires to learn to be the first real surfer chick. There is only one problem: The insecure virgin Chicklet often turns into the vampish Ann Bowman who bullies everyone in sight and uses language that is not exactly nice. Why does Chicklet have multiple personalities?
You will only find out in the final scene, which is a shocker and is intensified by Samantha Andrews’ over-the-top, but sincere acting.
Although the spoof has a valid point, as American families of the early ‘60s settle in to watch Bonanza while having butterscotch pudding, much of the characterization is pure cotton-candy fun. Liz Brion carries off a terrific Marilyn Monroe version of Heat Wave, and Jennifer Keith and Andrews perform Breaking Up Is Hard to Do as Siamese twins. Jeff Jordan as the manic Provolony, and Bradley Keith, excellent as Yo Yo, who loves recipes and hairdos, exchange a passionate kiss in quite a departure from the films of the era.
Unlike the movie, no one who sleeps on the beach is murdered; they only wake up with all their body hair shaved, a minor point. The important thing is that we learn the truth about Chicklet’s mother; that movie star Bettina Barnes finds a serious role for herself after having to do four sequels to Sex Kittens in Outer Space, and that Star Cat, a hunky surfer dude perfectly played by David Reinwald, goes back to medical school to become a psychiatrist.
Rob Duren and Paulette Todd round out the quirky, talented cast of this show produced by Keely Reinwald with flashy costumes by Julie Ziff.