A touch of ‘Reefer Madness’
Directed by: Ashley Adams
Starring: Eric Newfield, Rose Werth, Craig JakobsenThough you might be tempted to explain your friends’ erratic behavior as mid-semester stress, it could very well be “Reefer Madness.” The horrors of such an affliction will be on display several times this weekend—courtesy of the student group Cast n’ Crew.
The musical reenacts the ruin of dopey Jimmy Harper, who strays from his high school sweetheart Mary Lane for an enticing hit of a marijuana cigarette. At the mercy of gangsters and prostitutes, Jimmy’s downward spiral passes through addiction, animal abuse and homicide, among other gasp-worthy crimes. The story is mediated by the town’s high school principal speaking to his audience, a deeply concerned assembly of parents, coating smugness over sarcasm like frosting over, well, a brownie.
It’s all delightfully over the top, perhaps vaulted there by the topicality of Wash. U.’s new smoking ban. In front of a set literally plastered with ’30s and ’40s anti-marijuana cartoons, the stoners puff novelty cigarettes, releasing a cloud of entirely non-carcinogenic pixie dust. The Blackbox Theater is a very intimate space, and as power cords ring in and red lights pulse, the offstage cast chanting “reefer madness” begins to feel (ironically) incriminating. So too does Jimmy’s first high, a savage and intoxicating affair, as it spreads to the audience.
The musical’s various set pieces, not the least of which stars a glitter-jean and tin foil crown wearing Jesus denying Jimmy’s salvation, are heightened by a live band, flawlessly playing a soundtrack that dabbles in grunge, jazz, funk and bubble gum pop.
The musical adaptation of the depression-era propaganda film premiered Off Broadway in 2001, where it closed shortly thereafter.
“It was right after September 11th,” senior and director Ashley Adam said. “At that time, no one wanted to see a musical that said the government was wrong.”
The recent political discussion around marijuana legalization convinced Cast n’ Crew to put on “Reefer Madness.”
“It’s on the ballot in California,” Adam said. “A lot of things have changed.”
Over the last five weeks, Cast n’ Crew has been learning and rehearsing the play.
“Reefer Madness” will be showing on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Village Black Box Theater door before showtime.