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December 04, 2000 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-12-04

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 4, 2000


Students should
go psycho for
'Beach Party'

'Rent' at the Fisher
brings Puccini's
classic up to date



By Lyle Henretty
Daily Arts Writer
"Psycho Beach Party" is the sim-
ple tale of Chicklet Forrest (Lauren
Ambrose), a teenage tomboy who
hasn't yet come of age. Chicklet's
only desire is to be a surfer, just like
the guys that hang out at the beach;
She begs the legendary "king of the

beach Kanaka
Beach Party
Grade: A
At Michigan Theater

to teach her the
ways of the
board. Things
culminate at the
big, end-of-
summer Luau.
Oh, did I
mention that
Chicklet has a'
split personality
and may or may
not be killing
off everyone on
the beach with a
"defect" (that
is, has a hair

This, my friends, is only the
beginning. "Psycho Beach Party" is
a cult film that deserves to be
placed in the upper echelons of the
genre, right between "Heavy Metal"
and "The Rocky Horror Picture
Show." The film plays like a '50s
psychological thriller blended seam-
lessly with the Frankie Avalon
beach movies of the '60s, and
throws in a few shots straight out of
the '70s slasher movies to boot.
This movie is truly exquisite
because everyone involved gets the,
joke. The script, by Busch, based on
his 1988 off-Broadway play, rises
above simple parody by exploiting
the underlying ignorance and sexual-
undertones of the noir classics, as
well as the overt sexuality and deep
sexism of the beach movies. The
acting is appropriately turned up
one notch above credible, though
the whole cast adds second dimen-
sions to their stock characters.
Director Robert Lee King, mak-
ing his feature-length debut, under-
stands how to meld the colorful,
bubble gum world of the beach with
the dark, brooding style of the '50s
movies. The obligatory blue-screen
surfing scenes are gleefully cheesy,
while the murders and revelations
take place in the shadows. He is an
incredible mimic of these older
films, but his true talent is making
nearly no noticeable transitions
between the two contrasting styles.
In the end,though, it is Ambrose

Courtesy ofReO dorse F il
Thomas Gibson stars with Lauren Ambrose in the gay/comedy/thriller, "Psycho Beach Party."

lip, is in a wheelchair, has only one
testicle - you know, the usual). Or
maybe the murderer is Kanaka, or
pseudo-psycho analyst Starcat, or
the B-movie starlet Bettina Barnes,
or maybe Yo Yo and Provaloney, the
nearly repressed homosexual beach
bums who enjoy wrestling and tick-
ling. However, will police Captain
Monica Stark (the very-much-a-
man Charles Busch) find the mur-

and Busch that steal the movie.
Ambrose, most famous for her turn
as angry loner Denise Flemming in
the teen comedy "Can't Hardly
Wait," is perfectly dead-pan
adorable as Chicklet, and colorfully
obscene as her sexually dominate
alter ego (think Mae West, uncen-
sored). Busch, who originated the
Chicklet role 12 years ago, goes
beyond the hey-look-l'm-a-man-in-
drag schtick by making his Monica
Stark the most absurdly likeable
character in the movie. Whether
she/he is trying to solve the case
using anagrams, or simply raising
an eyebrow in thought, Busch beau-
tifully satirizes the "New Woman"
of the '50s, as well as the well
meaning detectives who always

seemed to show up at the right see-
ond in noir classics.
While "Psycho Beach Party" has
more than enough cynicism for the
art-house crowd, King and Busch
would rather break down stereo-
types than simply mock their exis-
tence. They wisely avoid harsh John
Waters territory by keeping most of
the sex and violence off screen,
which retains the films dual-genre
flair. In a just world, this decon-
structing gen would be rewarded
with, at the very least, a best
screenplay nod comae
Oscar time. I hold no illusion of
this, though, and would be quite
happy to see it remain on the mid-
night movie circuit for years to

By Rachel Bachrach
For the D~aily
Refreshing, bombastic and ener-
getic. Sitting at the late Jonathon
Larson's musical, "Rent," the audi-
ence is blown away with the cast's
heartfelt and extraordinary perfor-
mance of this Broadway hit.
"Rent" first opened on February
13, 1996 at New York Theatre
Workshop, then moved onto Broad-
way and has been touring nationally
and globally
ever since.
Based on the
opera "La
Rent .Boheme," it
describes a
F modern day
Fisher Theater story about
December 2,.2000 people in their
early twenties
dealing with
life, love and
trying to pay
the rent. It
touches on
real-life issues
common to today's world, such as
AIDS and same-sex relationships.
But, that does not mean "Rent" is
limited to a certain audience -
everyone can relate in someway, if
not directly then metaphorically.
The first scene opens on Christ-
mas Eve with Mark, a young film-
maker, in his East Village loft in
New York with his roommate
Roger. Mark, who is played by Matt
Caplan, struggles to face his life
and hides behind his video camera.
Caplan's strong voice is best
shown in the second number with
Christian Mena, who plays Roger.
Roger is a young songwriter strug-
gling to write his one defiant song
before he unfortunately dies from
Both Mena and Caplan's voices
soar easily and make opera singing
look like breathing. Their voices
compliment each other so well, one
wonders if they weren't born'
singing together. Although Mena
sometimes seems stiff, his amaz-
ingly powerful voice overcomes
this minor problem.
Mena also harmonizes well with
Saycon Sengbloh, who plays Mimi,

a junkie who also is HIV positive.,
From the number "Light my Can-
dIe" to "Without You," Mimi and
Roger's characters grow together, as
do Sengbloh's and Mena's voices.,
As they fall in love throughout the
play, so do Collins' and Angel.
Collins (another former roommate
of Mark) meets a drag queen named.
Angel, and the two quickly realize
their attraction for one another,
despite the fact that they both are
HIV positive. Mark Richard Ford,
who portrays Collins, has an amaz-
ing tenor voice (with much range),
that compliments Shaun Earl's
Angel well. Earl brings the fun and
laughter with his cross-dressing
character, especially in "Today 4
U." He shines onstage, both as
Angel and as a great singer and
The two lesbian characters are
Maureen (who left Mark) and
Joanne, played by Maggie Ben-
jamin and Jacqueline B. Arnold,
respectively. These two have voices
that make Britney and Christina
look like amateurs. Benjamin's per-
formance of "Over the Moon" had
the audience cheering even before
she was finished.
Arnold's acting ability plus her
gospel voice cannot even compare
to anything on the Billboard charts.
The set is very modern, with iron
staircases and tables. The band is
set on stage, allowing for the audi-
ence to get a closer view. Lighting
was also very effective, especially
during Roger's ballad "One Song
Glory," when his large shadow was
displayed across the backdrop. The
only prop used was Mark's camera
and the way Caplan interacted with
it, one would suspect his hand was
glued to the handle.
One of the best numbers was the
well-known "Seasons of Love" per-
formed by the company while
standing in a straight line. This
song alone defines the play's mean-
ing and shows audiences what is
missing in today's rock. Americans
are so conditioned to listening to
pop music that we forget what real
singing even sounds like. There is
"No day but today," so turn off your
MTV and go see some real talent in

Are YuFeeling
Medication-free women suffering from
depression between the ages of 18-50
are needed for treatment and research
project studying brain chemistry. There
MAY BE compensation of up to $400.00
upon completion of study.
For more information call 936-8726.


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Any trots, an~y day. 24 fur.
fully canal.~tJM
Serving t s, ~ 9

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