Sex! Violence! More sex! More violence! IRC’s hilarious production of Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation is a total hoot.
No doubt this wild show will offend or shock some audience members. No doubt others will try to chastise the show for insensitivity to the psychosexual moment. But anybody trying to hashtag IRC or Durang will be left standing on the dock with their mouths hanging open, having missed the boat. Tina Brock directs with gusto and glee.
Trying to summarize the plot is an exercise in absurdity, but that, of course, is what IRC is dedicated to. As the company, under Brock’s savvy artistic direction, has moved on from the European theater of the absurd (such playwrights as Ionesco) to the American absurdists (such playwrights as Durang), the direction of travel is away from the metaphorical and philosophical and toward the riotously outrageous. IRC’s last production, the very American Eccentricities of a Nightingale by Tennessee Williams, was a far more melancholy work than this current show, but it launched a similar attack on society’s mores and values. Ultimately, that means us.
The “us” in Betty’s Summer Vacation is a group of three (Josh Hitchens, Carlos Forbes, and Kassy Bradford); we hear them before we see them, as their raucous laughter seems to come from the ceiling. Then they talk to the people onstage. Then they appear, looking like Creatures from the Black Lagoon, begging for another scene: “Entertain us.” They are the audience, the lappers-up of celebrity gossip, the droolers over bizarre rumors of perversions, the lovers of tabloid scandal sheets and trash-talk Court TV. “Us” have been schooled.
The plot defies summary, as mentioned, but here goes: Betty (Kirsten Quinn, excellent as the Voice of Reason) and her friend Trudy (Amanda Schoonover, terrific) have rented a beach house for a week, with the proviso that Trudy, a nonstop talker, will stop talking. Two other renters turn up: One is horny surfer dude Buck (Chris Fluck, whose riff on Oleanna has got to be seen): “Let’s just have sex.” “You’re just like my father.” And Keith (Anthony Crosby, wonderfully creepy), a serial killer: “Are you insane?” “Why does everybody ask me that?” Completing the party is the owner of the house, Mrs. Seizmagraff (Tina Brock, amazing, a human earthquake), Trudy’s mother. She invites a raincoat-wearing flasher derelict, one Mr. Vanislaw (William Rahill), to join them. Mayhem ensues as various body parts are chopped off.
The set, designed by Dirk Durossette, like the costumes, designed by Millie Hiibel, is both witty and ridiculous.