PSYCHO BEACH PARTYBy Charles Busch
Director – Bruce R. Coleman
Stage Manager – Kevin Scott Keating
Set/Costume Designer – Bruce R. Coleman
Lighting Designer – Bryant Yeager
Sound Designers – Rich Frolich
Chicklet – Jenna Anderson
Yo-yo – Heath Billups
Nicky – Benjamin Bratcher
Mrs. Forrest – Coy Covington
Berdine - Steph Garrett
Kanaka - Blake Lee
Star Cat – Jacob Lewis
Bettina Barnes – Grace Neely
Dee Dee - Abigail Palmgren
Marvel Anne - Kim Swarner
Provoloney – Zach Valdez
Reviewed Performance: 7/2/2016
Reviewed by Mark-Brian Sonna, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Theatre 3 is not usually known for pushing the envelope when it comes to producing plays. Psycho Beach Party is definitely a play that would make a prudes shrivel up, and free thinkers cheer and applause. What makes this high-camp production so winning is that its heart is in the right place.
Psycho Beach Party takes the sanitized beach comedy films that were popular in the 1960’s and up-ends them by playing up the sexual tensions, dirtying up the language, and introducing a clever twist or two, or three. Like the films the “kids” on the beach find themselves pinning for each other. The characters are all stock: the hunk, the good boy, the pretty but-not-so nice girl, the outcast girl who doesn’t fit in, the side-kick nerdy best friend, the glamorous star, the not-so-bright hunk, the sage surfer, and the old-fashioned mom. While the films underplayed the hormonal yearnings, this play puts it all out on display.
The storyline is very simple: An outcast girl, Chicklet, wants to fit in with a group of popular teens, and eventually she does. Sort of. The difference is that Chicklet suffers from multiple personality disorder so from one moment to the next she goes from being awkward, to being a dominatrix, and as the play progresses other personalities emerge adding comedic chaos to the entire storyline. There are no subtleties to any of the characters, and the actors take on their roles with much gusto.
Jenna Anderson plays the role of Chicklet with demented glee. On a dime she’ll turn from being an awkward teen to being a hyper-sexed dominatrix able to seduce the hunk-alicious Kanaka, played by Blake Lee, who is the “leader” of the surfers. To watch Kanaka crumble to the wiles of Chicklet is comedy gold, and the two actors delightfully play off each other. Some of the language is downright dirty, but both actors are able to deliver the raunchy and overtly sexual humor without making it come across as offensive which is a testament to their acting ability.
There’s several subplots that add to the madness (and fun), that make this production zing. Provoloney, the dumb Italian jock played deliciously by Zach Valdez, and Yo-yo the hippy-dippy beach bum played with loveable wide-eyen innocence by Heath Billups, are two beach buddies whose friendship develops into something more. This blossoming of their friendship takes the undercurrent of homoeroticism and turns it into a tidal wave. The results are hilarious, especially since both characters are so dumb that they don’t even understand what is really going on between them. Both actors have fun with their respective roles, and in turn the audience roars in laughter.
Kim Swarner in her role of Marvel Anne, is as her name implies marvelous. She exudes charm, beauty, confidence, but is far from being nice. She’s a complete viper as she spews out venomous “compliments.” The audience loves hating her, and she delivers each poisonous insult with much glee. It’s a fabulous performance.
Jacob Lewis as Star Cat is the dumb pretty boy. With a jaw dropping physique you can see why all the girls on the beach swoon for him. What makes his performance so winning is that he plays his role as someone who is completely unaware of how his physical charms make up for the fact that he’s not bright.
Bettina Barnes, played by Grace Neely, is a Hollywood starlet that is attempting to go incognito that ends up befriending the beach buddies. I say attempting because there is no way anyone with such glamour could ever not be recognized. Neely channels Marilyn Monroe in her performance and knocks it out of the beach-park.
Coy Covington as Mrs. Forrest, Chicklet’s mother, is a scream. His drag performance is cued off of the film “Mommy Dearest” is which Joan Crawford is portrayed as a psychotic sadist. While his scenes stop the rapid fire pacing of the show, it’s worth it as he milks every scene for all it’s worth. Covington is known to be the go to actor when it comes to tackling the roles originated by Charles Busch (who originated this role on stage). Mr. Busch while in Dallas promoting one of his films, saw Covington’s performance in one of his plays that was running during that time. Suffice to say a strong friendship between them developed. So how good is Covington’s performance in Theatre Three’s Psycho Beach Party? Upon exiting the stage the audience frequently would applaud.
The most impressive performance amongst this strong cast is that of Steph Garrett’s Berdine. She is the nerdy sidekick to Chicklet. Her exuberant energy reminded me of a hamster hyped up on speed. This kind of character could be annoying but Garrett makes her loveable, so much so, that when Chicklet spurns her, we feel her intense sadness.
Rounding out the cast are Dee Dee, played by Abigail Palmgren, and Nicky, played by Benjamin Bratch er. Their roles are relatively small. They dance around the stage during scene transitions and thus capture the exuberance of the era with their go-go dancing that was typically found in those beach films. They make the scene changes fun.
Bruce R. Coleman directs this play with much savvy. He doesn’t hold anything back, yet is able to take the raunchy humor and make it digestible. A play of this nature needs to shock but not offend, and with the constant barrage of sight gags the result is pure comedy. His costume design is genius. It has the appropriate look for the era with the patterns and colors, but it is overtly eroticized for comedic effect: there’s lots of jiggling and bouncing and is all quite anatomically form fitting. Don’t bring the kids.
The sunny and wonderfully executed lighting designed by Bryant Yeager is interspersed with laughter inducing light cues that tie in with Chicklet’s psychotic breaks. The myriad of sound effects and out of the blue song snippets that break into the scenes designed by Rich Frolich are a stitch. Coleman’s cheeky and cartoonish set also add to the festivities. The overall design captures the insanity of the show.
Is Psycho Beach Party the greatest play you’ll ever see? No. Is it one of the most fun shows you’ll see? Absolutely! The goal of a show like this is to thoroughly entertain an audience. Theatre 3 has mounted an adult show that will have you laughing practically non-stop, while blushing at some of the humor. So leave the kids at home, and go have some unadulterated fun!
2800 Routh Street Ste #168, Dallas TX, 75201
Now through July 10th, 2016
Performances Thursdays, 7:30 PM, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sunday at 2:30 PM, and Wednesday July 6 at 2:00 pm. For information and tickets visit www.theatre3dallas.com or call