The place: a beach. The time: the 60s. The action: some monster has been sneaking around shaving the heads of unsuspecting couples who fall asleep after some pre-marital shenanigans. But who would do such a thing? Follow Chicklet, her best friend, Berdine, her surfer crush, Star Cat, Kanaka the surf master, and the ambiguously gay duo Yo-Yo and Provoloney as the mystery unfolds at the Parish Theatre. It's Psycho Beach Party, running through April 14th.

I am a fan of the strange, the awkward, and the irreverent. Psycho Beach Party ticks all those boxes. Performed as though it's one of the lost beach movies of the genre, the whole cast mugs like the camera is a few feet away. There is a fine line between embracing the genre, light-hearted mockery, and serving it up overcooked with a side of commentary, ala "Get it? It's just like those poorly-written, poorly acted movies!" The cast of Kalamazoo Civic's Psycho Beach Party tread lightly toward that line, but never, ever cross it. From lights up you are fully immersed in the show, delighting at the subtle winks, nods, and touches that could only come from pops of brilliance during rehearsal. Whether the choice was made by actor or director, someone laughed and said, "it's in!", and it's these little moments that make the production stand out as one-of-a-kind. The Psycho Surfers were a great addition to making scene transitions fluid and served as another spoonful of late 60s nostalgia.

It would be remiss of me if I didn't comment on performances, even though I always find it difficult with such a talented ensemble as seen in this show, however, kudos to  Jesús Barajas's "Chicklet". Rather than go full on giggling teen, Barajas found the tomboy essence that makes Chicklet so likable, which was beyond refreshing to see. At no point did he lean on the crutch of mockery. Sarah Budd's "Berdine" - if you don't coo "she's so cute" at least a dozen times during the show, you're watching it wrong. Budd is really good at rounding out her character with subtle bits of business, like an asthmatic wheeze, that add to the character and in no way appear to be chewing on the scenery. Oh, and the glasses over the mask was a nice touch.

Three take-aways from my notebook:

  • Great set - nice surfboards
  • Not safe for work
  • Hooray for the surf montage!!!

If you are a fan of well intentioned irreverence, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre's Psycho Beach Party rides that wave.

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