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On Stage: Gidget goes 'Psycho' in Stray Dog's 'Beach Party'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 8, 2013 - In the movies, Gidget went to Rome and Hawaii but did she ever go camping?

She and the rest of the cast do go completely camp in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Psycho Beach Party,” directed by Justin Been. Oh, and she also goes a little crazy. Charles Busch’s “Psycho" is the Gidget movie you never saw, the slasher flick you never knew.

The Gist:

As Chicklet, Ben Watts is the Gidget knockoff (more than one female is played by a male, as is Busch’s forté). And Moondoggie? He’s reinvented as Star Cat (Zach Wachter). Surf king Kahuna’s now Kanaka (Paul S. Cooper).

Bespeckled Anna Skidis is convincingly nerdy as Chicklet’s bestie, Berdine. And Suzanne Burke’s femme fatale Marvel Ann has created a whole new dialect of body language with her curvaceous come-ons. Then there’s closeted couple-to-be Yo-Yo (Paul Edwards) and Provoloney (Jake Ferree), and movie star Bettina Barnes (SaraJane Alverson).

Absolutely not to be missed is Chicklet’s mother Mrs. Forrest, played by the scene-stealing Stephen Peirick, reminiscent of “Hairspray’s” iconic Edna Turnblad.

Chicklet seems like a simple kid who just wants to learn to surf. But time reveals her many sides. Watts morphs from one personality to the next with confidence and flair. Who hasn’t dreamed of being a dominatrix in her Maidenform bra? Or at least her yellow bikini top?

Before the last wave laps the stage, audiences can look forward to Chicklet turning into a pogo stick, a knife fight between conjoined twins in a shared red dress, and a romantic interlude complete with fireworks.

Bits and Pieces:

There are as many ways to stage a beach scene as there are plays with beaches -- a lot. But how can you not love hand-maneuvered see-saw “waves” and a seagull on a stick, flying over Gidget’s first surfing lesson?

Then there’s Mrs. Forrest’s joke about tying up Chicklet. “I bet you think I’ve taken this gag too far,” she quips while pulling her daughter’s mouth gag ever tighter. Oh, well. Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you should be.

Here's a peek at another theater company's interpretation of "Psycho Beach Party's" dance scene.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.