By Beki Pineda
REEFER MADNESS The Musical – Written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney; Directed by Colin Roybal. Produced by Equinox Theatre Company (Presented at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, Denver) through April 28, 2018. Tickets available at 303-477-5977 or equinoxtheatredenver.com.
I don’t know if it was because it was the 4/20 weekend or if this is just a legitimate cult favorite of a certain underground, but the Bug was packed at this performance. I was told it had been like that for the entire run. No wonder Equinox continues to bring the show back every third year or so. It’s like their perennial Halloween favorite – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD – or seeing THE SANTALAND DIARIES at the Denver Center. It’s just what you do.
Being a REEFER MADNESS first-timer, I didn’t know quite what to expect. What I got was a funny romp through the fallacies and fears that grew up around people who smoked (shhhhh!) marijuana. That leafy-green assassin – that drug that turned good American kids into “hooligans and whores” – that addiction that spurred on “unspeakable acts of degradation”. One song describes everything one girl would do to get “the stuff”. It is, of course, so over the top that even if you didn’t like marijuana, it’s still laughable to see the fears of non-believers acted out.
The guise around which the story is built is that the Narrator (played by Todd Black) as a delightfully straight-faced Narrator/Principal of a school delivering a lecture as a warning to the student body. He tells the story of one typical teenage couple – Jimmy (Andrew Alber) and Mary Lane (Emily Ebertz – Mary Lane/Mary Jane, get it??) who are studying ROMEO AND JULIET together and have huge crushes on each other. Jimmy is a bit of a klutz and gets lured to a “house of ill repute” on the promise of free dance lessons. The house – which is the site on on-going orgies and drug binges – is run by a madam with a heart of gold (kind of) (Aimee Corley) and super-dude Jack (James Crapes with slicked back hair and a diabolical grin). Jack gets his “victims” to “just try it”. Of course, they are super-hooked and out of their heads after the first drag. And all go downhill from there.
Even Jesus (Patrick Brownson) shows up to offer advice but to tell you the truth, Jesus looks like he’s one toke over the line as well. Even though the ensemble warns “Listen to Jesus, Jimmy!”, it’s too late – he’s hooked.
It’s a funny script that gives us a look back into the historical stigma associated with drug use, enhanced by clever lively songs. Anyone who can rhyme “carnal carnival” with “bacchanal” is pretty darn good. As usual, Equinox chooses to put their money into a good band to play for the production, this time lead by Musical Director Adam White. Choosing good music over technical fireworks is always a better choice in my book. While the set and costumes supported the story, the voices of the leads and the energy of the script is what you will remember.
Only one more weekend to catch “reefer madness.”
WOW factor of 8!