Theater Review: PSYCHO BEACH PARTY (The Matrix Theatre)

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by Shari Barrett on June 30, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


Psycho Beach Party, a totally campy creation written by Charles Busch, is not your typical 50s and 60s beach blanket movie with Frankie and Annette innocently dancing and singing in the sand. With several cross-dressing cast members, mischief, madness, and the passionate pursuit of the perfect wave — or man — it combines a Hitchcockian psychological suspense thriller with the sexual heat of Jayne Mansfield at the height of her stardom. Think Gidget meets Mommie Dearest singing “The Girl Can’t Help It” to get a sense of the plot.

Adrián González, Michael P. McDonald

Directed by Tom DeTrinis and Ryan Bergmann, this rollicking and zany comedy centers around teenage tomboy Chicklet Forrest (Drew Droege doing his best to channel the ultimate crossdressing comedy legend Charles Busch), who desperately wants to be a part of the surfer crowd on Malibu Beach. Rejected by boys for her lack of curves, Chicklet decides her way to make her mark and catch a hot surfer dude is to not only learn to catch a wave but also how to catch the eye of lead surfer Kanaka (crossdresser Karen Maruyama) who always carries a large mug of Java to keep him ready to catch a wave.

Adrián González, Karen Maruyama, Daniel Montgomery, Drew Droege

But what Kanaka and the beach set don’t realize is that Chicklet (nee Florence) is hiding a big secret – an unfortunate tendency towards multiple personalities, including a dim check-out girl, an elderly radio talk show hostess, a male model named Steve, and the accounting firm of Edelman and Edelman. Droege is a hoot transforming into each of these distinct personalities using his physicality and side glances with hilarious results.

Drew Droege, Thomas Hobson, Michael P. McDonald

Chicklet’s most dangerous alter ego is the sexually voracious vixen Ann Bowman, who has nothing less than world domination on her mind as a knife-wielding terror willing to kill any man who crosses her path. And why did all these multiple personalities come out? It’s all thanks to her mother Mrs. Forrest (the excellent Sam Pancake resembling a wire coat hanger-carrying Joan Crawford), who emotionally and psychologically abused her daughter from the moment she was born. Hilarity reigns when we discover from where the character Ann Bowman was born.

Michael P. McDonald, Drew Droege, Daniele Gaither

Other beach bums and surfers include handsome and well-built Adrián Gonzalez as the speedo-clad Yo-Yo, Daniel Montgomery as his sexual-orientation-exploring roommate Provoloney, Thomas Hobson as Starcat, and Pete Zias as Marvel Ann who steals the attention of Star Cat before poor Chicklet can get her hands on him. And of course, Chicklet’s only female friend Berdine (Daniele Gaither), who couldn’t care less.

Chase Rosenberg, Adrián González, Thomas Hobson, Karen Maruyama

But everything falls apart with the arrival of Bettina, a glamorous movie star looking to hide away from her agent prior to heading to New York. Bettina, who shares “I love a man with a big … idea,” is played to the hilt by Chase Rosenberg (alternating with Roz Hernandez) in eye-catching shades of yellow, stacked to the max beyond what even Jayne Mansfield loved to flash. Will she be the one to fall victim to the knife-wielding Ann Bowman?

Daniel Montgomery, Adrián González

While this play is a bit too campy for my taste, it does contain great surf music, talented actors, and fast-paced direction that keeps the action moving along on a stylized beachy scenic design by Yuri Okahana-Benson and Nicole Bernardini, with lots of cultural references from my childhood growing up on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. Other tech credits include RS Buck (Lighting Design), Andrea “Slim” Allmond (Composer and Sound Design), Alexis Carrie (Costume Design), and Jenni Gilbert (Wigs). The show is wild fun if you’re in the mood for a mindless day partying at the beach.

Daniel Montgomery, Chase Rosenberg, Drew Droege, Karen Maruyama, Adrián González

photos by Jeff Lorch

Psycho Beach Party
HorseChart Theatre Company
Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave
ends on July 7, 2024 EXTENDED to July 20, 2024
Thurs-Sun at 7; 95 minutes
for tickets ($45-$100), call 323.496.3390 or visit HorseChart

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