A little bit of over-the-top humour and tacky costumes can go a long way and the students performing American Beauty at the Eagle Eye Theatre this week used both.
The costumes were pulled out of the worst of the 80s. Hot pink tracksuits and huge elbow pads ruled the wardrobe for the female cast members, while ripped denim and bad shirts clothed the male characters.
Over-the-top humour may even be an understatement. There is a scene with a staple gun, a bad incident with a muffin, another with strawberry jam and a variety of other props.
In fact, the whole play is a garish, with a bright and well-painted set, and quirky costume accents.
But what prevents the play from falling into its own silliness is some fine acting. Brittany Dake is convincing as Mona O'Neiric, a young woman struggling with her own beauty. She appears to genuinely want to stop hurting others, and knows her beauty is a curse. Dake is both brilliantly naive and worldly as she tries to be sweetly unaware of her looks.
At one point she says, "I want to be more than a trigger for hormones and endorphins," and says she suffers from "a pollution of unwanted adulation."
She is especially good in scenes where she breaks the fourth wall and explains to the audience what is going through her mind.
Peter Vartanis plays her jealous husband Mark, who is in jail for constantly attacking men he thinks are hitting on Mona. Vartanis has little interaction with the other character. His role consists of pretending he is in a jail cell, talking to Mona.
In American Beauty, three brothers all fall for Mona. The first one, Tom Morley, (Brian Eckersley) her best friend's fiancé, the second is Marty (Kevin Bamsey), who is married, and the third is Chris (Jeevan Grewal), a reverend. Mona, of course, falls for none, and spends the entire play trying to escape their affections.
Eckersley, Bamsey and Grewal are convincingly obsessed. As each of the brothers meet Mona, they fall into an imaginary trance where they start dancing with her. It's extremely comical.
Kassie Strobel plays Ginger, Mona's best friend, and Jocelyn Howe plays Yola, the jilted wife. Both Strobel and Howe get to show off considerable rage.
The Howe Sound Secondary students put the play together under director Amber Hamilton and in January, the students take their show on the road to Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver to compete against other high schools.