Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beach Party Near The Pabst In September

Off The Wall Offers Promising Camp In Early September

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Dear Ruthie

I saw the title. I saw the cast list. I laughed. And now I have something to look forward to a great deal on the other side of summer. A show that had not been previously mentioned in Off The Wall Theatre’s 2010-2011 season brochure has been posted on the theatre company’s website. (Looks like they're considering September to be part of their '09-'10 season.) Next September second, OTW will be opening a production of Charles Busch’s Psycho Beach Party. The show is being directed by Jeremy Welter starring Liz Mistele (presumably) as Florence “Chicklet” Forest and local drag queen Dear Ruthie in the Charles Busch Role. 

Dear Ruthie’s alter ego Mark Hagen is also a very talented actor who made quite a memorable trip to the stage in the Harvey Fierstein role in Spiral Theatre’s recent production of Torch Song Trilogy. Hagen is perfect for the role, having appeared Charles Busch’s uniquely campy melodramatic comedy before. In July of  ’07, he starred in the Charles Busch role in an Off The Wall production of Busch’s the Lady In Question. Here the Charles Busch role is that of police captain Monica Stark. Captain Stark is investigating a string of grizzly murders in Malibu in the ‘60’s. (It’s a comedy.) Hagen’s proven in the past that he can do either end of comedy and drama and do it very, very well. This is absolutely essential for a Charles Busch comedy, as the camp and the comedy come from a comedy that has to be delivered with a kind of a serious conviction if it’s to come across as anything other than completely flat and uninteresting. Camp is actually a lot more difficult than it sounds and Hagen/Ruthie is remarkably good with it.  

Hagen/Ruthie’s experience in the Busch role is  matched by Mistele’s past performances in roles similar to the one here. She’s playing the psycho Busch is after—a woman suffering from multiple personalities. Weird and campy, right? But Mistele has played this sort of thing before in more serious contexts. She had an overwhelmingly otherworldly gravity about her as Ophelia in an Off The Wall production of Hamlet some time ago and more recently played a passionately revolutionary and criminally exaggerated pseudo-imaginary woman in Soulstic Theatre’s recent production of Love Song. The role here should be a lot of fun—she’s done the crazy thing before ,but here she gets the opportunity to really take it over the top in a campy, comic direction.     

Off The Wall’s Psycho Beach Party runs September 2 – 12 in a cozy, little space across from the Pabst Theatre. A preview of the show will appear in the Shepherd on the other side of August.  

 

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