By Tanya Irwin
“Beaches Be Trippin'”
The Ringwald Theatre
22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale
July 11-Aug. 3, 2016; Saturday and Monday evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.
If you are expecting many similarities between the PG-13-rated movie “Beaches” and the over-the-top raunchy parody “Beaches Be Trippin’,” you might be disappointed. The emphasis is definitely on the raunchy, and it’s definitely a show to hire a babysitter for. And don’t bring grandma, either, unless she can handle a plethora of F-bombs, blowjob jokes and a champagne glass that doubles as a dildo.
However, if you’re a fan of drag, quick wit and even a little improv, you’ll be right at home at The Ringwald Theatre’s annual “Summer Camp” production: director and writer Brandy Joe Plambeck’s take on the sappily sentimental “Beaches.”
Even the 10-year-old characters at the beginning of the performance are over the top. CC Bloom (Joe Bailey) smokes a cigarette and quizzes the lost-on-the-beach Hillary Whitney (Richard Payton) about the size of her father’s penis and whether his pubic hairs are bushy or neat (in a questionable exercise of trying to determine which hotel the hapless Hillary might be staying at based on such characteristics of her father.) This is bread-and-butter, of course, for the Ringwald, so regulars of the theater surely won’t plotz at all over the bawdy material.
Interspersed amidst the acting are videos of the two main characters’ pen-pal correspondence over the years (with CC’s laden with R-rated language.) The correspondence is read aloud by the characters, which is the voiceover to videos. CC’s letters are riddled with profanities and vulgarities while Hillary’s are more earnest – yet both elicit chuckles. (Hillary talks about Jew camp and the wonders of her first crush while CC talks about having to sleep with people in order to get acting parts.)
The actors are the highlight of the play, which has very few props and one constant backdrop: a painted wall of palm trees in a blue sky with a few white clouds. Bailey and Payton reunite after last year’s turns as Jane and Blanche Hudson in “Whatever, Baby Jane!” Bailey is hysterical as the bawdy, breast-shaking, wise-beyond-her-years CC Bloom. Payton has a sassy side of his own, often displayed in his expressions of exasperation in dealing with the ever narcissistic CC.
Brenton Herwat and Scott Jason Alexander Cook do a terrific job of playing every remaining character, including CC’s mom Leona, love interest John Pierce, Hillary’s husband Michael Essex and Hillary’s daughter Victoria. Their ability to quickly change costumes and personas is sometimes put to the test, as when Hillary and CC sit in the waiting room waiting for the doctor to appear. Hillary confides to the audience that the doctor has missed his cue to enter, as he has done in every single rehearsal in the previous week. It all works to the delight of the audience.
The off-script banter with the audience and the obvious improv deviations from the script are some of the most entertaining elements of the play. Early in the performance, Hillary’s spike heel goes through the floorboard on set. She gracefully recovers as CC harps on character John Pierce for not keeping the fictional set in better condition.
In another on-the-fly crack, CC ribs Hillary about being too permissive in allowing 7-year-old Victoria to get so many tattoos (which aren’t hidden by the child’s dress Herwat has donned.) Hewat’s body art had been on full display in a previous scene where the lean and attractive actor is wearing nothing more than Daisy Duke shorts, cowboy boots and a smile.
Musical numbers are lip-synced for the most part, with the exception of Hillary’s mini-rendition of “Free At Last.” Payton has a lovely voice which is underutilized in the production – but hey, she’s not the one who is supposed to be a singer/actress; that’s CC’s shtick.
There is no intermission and the scenes quickly flow between live acting and the video-projected letters as the characters quickly age. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the movie knows Hillary dies at the end, and the play makes no attempt to keep the inevitable ending a secret. Once she births the baby that CC will end up taking custody of at the end of the performance, Hillary coughs into a hanky and then reveals a bloodstain to the audience.
It’s hard to believe impending death could be a comedic device, but somehow in this production it is, with the bloody handkerchief prompting a chuckle whenever Hillary shows it to the audience.
Even after Hillary’s matter-of-fact death, the jokes continue to fly until the very last word of the very last scene. Nothing is sacred, and that’s OK, because laughter is contagious.