Photos by Janice Peters

“The Psychic” was onstage at By The Sea Productions in Morro Bay February 17 to March 12, 2023.

So . . . you might expect By the Sea Production’s currently-running comedy The Psychic to include supernatural manifestations or levitating tables or prognosticating crystal balls. If that’s really what you want to see, you’ll be disappointed—but hang around a few minutes and something even more entertaining (and even more unnatural, if you can believe it) will be revealed, guaranteed.

This whimsical, humorous two-hour play (with intermission) was written by Sam Bobrick, the Broadway playwright of shows like the often-produced Norman, Is That You? who also wrote for TV (The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, The Flintstones, and Get Smart, among others). True to his comedic roots, Bobrick imbued The Psychic with some good one-liners, as well as some characters whose stereotypical natures (the gangster, the cheating husband, the mistress, etc.) prove essential to the plot and provide delightful turns for all the actors (and the audience members who get to enjoy their performances).

Director Sheridan Cole keeps the pace and action rolling along as the comedy turns into a mystery that (at least at first) confounds the audience as much as the characters. She’s had ample time to work on all the pieces of the show’s puzzle, however, having first planned the production to debut in 2020—right as COVID hit. Finally able to open the show after attempts to mount it in 2021 and 2022 were stifled as well, Cole and the by-now-ready-to-get-on-with-it cast are well-rehearsed and comfortable with the material.

Robert Vaca as Adam and Sarah Ruth Smith as Laura.

The plot revolves around Adam (Robert Vaca), a down-on-his-luck-mystery-writer-turned-would-be-psychic. Vaca channels Woody Allen throughout his performance as a kind of schmuck who is perplexed as much as overjoyed to attract the attention of Laura (Sarah Ruth Smith), an attractive, erudite woman who, with Adam’s “psychic” help, may be convinced that her cheating husband is planning to kill her. Smith proves herself an adept partner to Vaca’s verbal lobs, and their articulate back-and-forth is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the production.

Of course, complications ensue. Is Laura’s husband Roy (Ed Cardoza, easily convincing as a lying, conniving cheat) actually stepping out on her? Is he planning to kill her and run off with Rita (Molly Pendley, very easily convincing as a lying, conniving bimbo)? How does the suave gangster Johnny Bubbles (Gregory DeMartini, very very easily convincing as a, well, lying, conniving criminal) fit in to all this? And last but not least, can the trench-coat-wearing ace-Detective Coslow (Dan Costley, who looks his part so well he doesn’t need to convince anyone of anything) help Adam and Laura solve the murders as, of course, the bodies start piling up?

Enjoying the natural repartee between Vaca and Smith isn’t the only joy of this production. Watch Cardoza’s animated face as he tries to explain his character’s suspicious actions. Appreciate Pendley’s grating but perfected words as she sashays her way around the men on stage. Delight in DeMartini’s wrenching description of the unfolding shenanigans as “a bad production of Guys and Dolls.”

So, confer with your local soothsayer or consult your own crystal ball: it’s a good bet that The Psychic will fulfill your wish for a good laugh, a good mystery, and a good time.

Editor’s Note: The length of time it took to mount this production unfortunately meant that one of its original cast members, BTSP veteran David Rousseve, was not able to fulfill one of the roles as planned. Rousseve died unexpectedly in January, and this production of The Psychic is dedicated to his memory.

:: Charlotte Alexander