This play is most definitely not your typical Beach Blanket Bingo. Instead, try to imagine Gidget crossed with The Three Faces of Eve and Mommie Dearest.
The Little Theatre of Savannah will present Psycho Beach Party beginning May 14. In a campy spoof of ‘60s beach movies, playwright Charles Busch gives us Chicklet, a perky teenager who wants to learn to surf. The scene is Malibu Beach circa 1962, but Frankie and Annette are nowhere to be found.
Chicklet joins a group of beach bums led by the Great Kanaka to realize her dream. Ah, but Chicklet has a dark, dark secret -- she suffers from a multiple personality disorder and seeing red causes her to go, well, just crazy, man.
On seeing red, Chicklet transforms into various other selves, the most sinister being Ann Bowman, who wants to conquer the world. Her other personalities include a black cashier, an elderly radio talk-show hostess, a male model named Steve and the accounting firm of Edelman and Edelman. No, that last was not a typo.
Things get even wilder a movie starlet flees the set of her latest soft porn movie to hide among the surfers. It all leads up to a wild climax, after a whole lot of laughs.
It’s not a typical play and Busch is not a typical playwright. An actor and drag legend as well as a playwright, he portrayed Chicklet in both its stage and screen incarnations.
In Savannah, the play is being directed by Jeroy Hannah. Connect recently caught up with him to talk about Psycho Beach Party.
Tell me about this play.
Jeroy Hannah: It was written about 20 years ago. Charles Busch has gone on to be known for a lot of other plays, most notably The Allergist’s Wife, which was nominated for a Tony Award. This one is an outrageous campy comedy, an over-the-top spoof of ‘60s beach films. I‘m setting it in a netherworld of Malibu Beach between yesterday and tomorrow. There are some contemporary elements. I’m not being slavish to the period. It’s an alternate universe 1962.
What is it about?
Jeroy Hannah: This is the story of Chicklet Forrest, but her name has nothing to do with the chewing gum. When all the other girls develop into gorgeous women, she remains a chicklet. She lives with her single mom. She’s a young girl with severe problems brought on by her mother’s past.
Does it have elements of horror as well as comedy?
Jeroy Hannah: Not really. There is one short hatchet scene, but it’s not really anything horrible. It’s only a threatening-with-a-hatchet. There is some risque language. We’re going to go ahead with it and anticipate that this is a show for adults. It may sound like a lot of fun for the kids, but it’s not for them.
Who plays the lead role?
Jeroy Hannah: Emily Rice plays Chicklet. She’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed, tanned -- the perfect surfer girl. And she’s talented. She has a really tough job. She plays all these different personalities and it all happens within nano seconds of each other. It’s quite a little tour de force for her.
Tell me about the other characters.
Jeroy Hannah: The character of the Great Kanaka is played by Buck Drummond, otherwise known as Dr. Buck Drummond. He’s a veterinarian in a local clinic. He plays a surfer guru who has surfed all over the world - maybe. In his notes, Charles Busch says he is playing up the idea that nothing is really as it seems to be. Everybody has a story behind them, everybody is hiding something, everybody reveals the truth about themselves. It has a fairy-tale ending. Starcat, who is played by Matthew Perez, is the most handsome of the surfer dudes. He and Chicklet have a tempestuous flirtation that finally culminates in true love when he cures her through past-life regression and hypnosis. Lareina Brown plays the mother. Bettina Barnes, the movie star, is played by Bonnie Terrell. They’re both hilarious.
I’ll bet it’s been fun to work on this production.
Jeroy Hannah: I think it’s been great fun. Part of the reason I was drawn to it is because it’s young and fresh. It’s an innocent kind of naughty fun. I don’t know of a better summertime formula. You’re not going to see Caligula.
Little Theatre recently announced that the Seaboard Freight Station theater is now its permanent home. What else can we expect?
Jeroy Hannah: I think it’s an exciting time for the Little Theatre of Savannah. We’re excited about being where we are. We’re hoping we can be presenters of exciting theater for a broad spectrum of people to enjoy, so hopefully people will come out and support the space.
Little Theatre of Savannah: Psycho Beach Party
Chicklet, a perky teenager in Malibu Beach circa 1962, wants to learn to surf and join a group of beach bums in this quirky spoof that will be presented May 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. and May 17 and 31 at 3 p.m. at the Seaboard Freight Station Theatre, 703D Louisville Road. Tickets are $20 for the general public; $15 for seniors, military and students; and $10 for children. Call 631-3773 or visit www.littletheatreofsavannah.org