Theatre in the Park’s “Psycho Beach Party” is set on a beach in Malibu in the early 60s, but viewers expecting a sweet little love story or something equally tame are in for a surprise. While “Psycho Beach Party” plays off of retro beach-blanket movies, it puts a whole new spin on the genre by adding in a crazy, head-shaving, personality-switching little beach babe named Chicklet (Kelly McConkey). Chicklet, so named because she’s too skinny to be a full-blown chick, is the picture of bubbly sweetness, at least until something sets her off and causes her to switch into one of her many other personalities, some of them psychotic. McConkey takes on this challenging, ever-changing role with aplomb, effortlessly contorting her body, voice, and demeanor to bring Chicklet’s different personalities to life.
Chicklet isn’t alone on Stephen J. Larson’s real-sand set, however. She’s joined by surfing-god, Kanaka (Preston Campbell), who is half-scared and half-turned on by one of Chicklet’s dominatrix personalities; her pretty (and pretty clueless) rival, the boy-crazy Marvel Ann (Katie Bottomley), and her geeky best friend, Berdine (Lorelei Mellon), as well as a host of other colorful characters. It is the ladies who take center stage in this production, however; in addition to McConkey’s fine performance, Bottomly brings attitude to her portrayal of Marvel Anne, and Mellon makes Berdine about as charmingly awkward as a teenage girl can be. Other notable beach-bums include Yo Yo (Thomas Porter) and Provolony (Allan Maule), who harbor not-so-secret crushes on each other. The “Psycho Beach Party” script by Charles Busch uses their unsubdued sexuality and Chicklet’s unsubdued personalities to make an interesting but gentle statement on the perils of suppressing one’s truest desires.
Director Ira David Wood IV keeps the crazy story under tight control, while still giving his actors plenty of room to play. And he breaks up the show with cheeky dance routines (choreographed by Jade Carlisle) featuring girls in bright, vintage swimsuits and even a go-go dancer (Amanda Longo). What more could a viewer ask for?
Theatre in the Park presents PSYCHO BEACH PARTY at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1 and 2, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Aug. 3, and 3 p.m. Aug. 4 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($16 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except $12 TIP members and $12 apiece for groups of 10 or more. BOX OFFICE: 919-831-6058 or http://www.etix.com/.
NOTE: Theatre in the Park says, “Come in beachwear and get a free beer!”
Psycho Beach Party (1987 Off-Broadway musical and 2000 film): http://www.charlesbusch.com/Psycho%20Beach%20Party%20-%20The%20Play.htm (Charles Busch’s website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycho_Beach_Party (Wikipedia).
Charles Busch (book): http://www.charlesbusch.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Busch (Wikipedia).
Ben Vaughn (music): http://www.benvaughn.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Vaughn (Wikipedia).
Ira David Wood IV (director): https://www.facebook.com/ira.d.wood (his Facebook page).