Review: ‘Psycho Beach Party’ is crazy good theater

From left, Amy Meyer plays Marvel Ann, Joey C. Pelletier plays Chicklet, and Elizabeth Battey plays Berdine. Credit: Debut Cinematic/Karen Ladany
From left, Amy Meyer plays Marvel Ann, Joey C. Pelletier plays Chicklet, and Elizabeth Battey plays Berdine. Credit: Debut Cinematic/Karen Ladany

“Psycho Beach Party,” Charles Busch’s charmingly demented homage to ’60s beach party films, feels right at home in the eccentric hands of Happy Medium Theatre Company and Heart and Dagger Productions.

Their co-production of the long-time cult favorite manages to both capture the hilarious essence of the play and truly embody the almost indefinable lowbrow kitsch that distinguishes Busch’s work from mere comic camp.

“Psycho Beach Party” (which was also adapted into a 2000 movie of the same name, starring Amy Adams) tells the story of a group of teenage girls looking for love on Malibu Beach. At the head of the pack is sexy Marvel Ann (Amy Meyer), who has no problem scoring a hunk and is the alpha babe among her pals, nerdy Berdine (Elizabeth Battey) and flat-chested, misfit “Chicklet” a.k.a. Florence (Joey C. Pelletier), who aren’t nearly as lucky in love.

When Chicklet finally begins to turn heads, it’s not because she’s hit the beach in a bikini. The aspiring surfer suffers from multiple personality disorder and every single one of her — many — personalities show up to the big luau.

Pelletier is blisteringly funny as he morphs swiftly from sweet Chicklet into his various other personas — which include a dominatrix, black check-out girl, radio talk show hostess, accountant and male model — and back again. He could easily turn this role into a cross-dressing sideshow but instead opts to play his part with great physical comedy, subtle gestures and touching authenticity.

Audrey Lynn Sylvia delivers an outrageously funny turn as Chicklet’s mother, Mrs. Forest, while Mike Budwey shines as surf legend Kanaka.

While Battey is superb as Berdine, she needs to learn to project, as some of her funniest lines were, unfortunately, nearly inaudible. Francisco Marquez also falls a bit short in his flat portrayal of beach stud Star Cat, a role he might have played with more bravado.

Despite these minor shortcomings, “Psycho Beach Party” might just be one of the best bashes of the summer. There’s not a lot of space on this blanket , however, so make sure to arrive early.

If you go

Through August 3
The Factory Theatre
791 Tremont St., Boston
$20
HappyMediumTheatre.com



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