Psycho Beach Party | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Psycho Beach Party


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Psycho Beach Party, Open Eye Productions, at WNEP Theater. Charles Busch's campy farce--written before the Northwestern University alum became famous with Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife--makes for an almost perfect party show in the hands of director Jason Lubow and his rambunctious young cast. Busch spoofs two genres of 60s cinema: surf-sand-and-sex comedies (Beach Party, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini) and low-budget Psycho knockoffs (Homicidal, Strait-Jacket). His heroine, Chicklet--a role created by Busch and played here by gangly Adam Cook--is a California girl with a split personality, the result of being grounded by her religious-fanatic mother (Sara Sevigny in a nod to Carrie's Piper Laurie). Chicklet's evil alter ego wreaks havoc on a community dominated by surfer stud Kanaka (Tucker Curtis) and his beach-bum buddies. Among those caught up in the carnage are a trampy temptress (Alexis Klossner), a ditzy runaway starlet (Jennifer Walls), and a brainy tomboy (Sabrina Kramnich).

Busch revs up the coy teasing of Kennedy-era teen flicks into all-out raunch; the result is hormonally hyper hilarity. The actors' flashes of flesh batter adolescent stereotypes of body image (I loved Klossner flaunting her cellulite as the skimpily clad siren), and Cook's over-the-top portrayal of Chicklet transcends drag to achieve true androgyny. Erin Kathleen Carlson's cartoonish fight sequences add to the rowdy exaggeration. The only problem is the airless auditorium, stifling even in this cool weather--a problem only partly alleviated by the theater's BYOB policy.

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