Reefer Madness

Robert Popoli (Jimmy Harper) and Taryn Wichenko (Mary Lane) in Reefer Madness. 

Courtesy of King's Players and Christine Gruenbauer.

Reefer Madness

Director: Shelby Price

Producer: Christine Gruenbauer & King’s Players

Rating: 4/5

If you’ve been following the contentious case of marijuana legalization, you are going to absolutely love King's Players production of Reefer Madness. In the play, this leafy green substance is connected to everything wrong with 1930s American society: stealthy socialism, godless atheists, underground jazz music and promiscuous premarital sex.

Inspired by the original 1936 film, Reefer Madness, the theatre production takes a more rambunctious approach as the director, Shelby Price, combines satirical humour with talented actors, vocalists and musicians. This clever musical comedy keeps the audience entertained with the story of a good girl gone bad all while an innocent teenage boy falls victim to the evils of marijuana. The jokes come at a rapid pace with laughter filling the Joanne and Peter Kenny Theatre within seconds of the play starting.  

Shelby Price, who also directed The Adventures of Goldilockpick and Little Red Riding Hoodlum last year, says, “Our cast is just phenomenal, they’re so talented. The music is so well written too and the story is hilarious." 

Although the stage setup and props were minimalistic, the audience was clearly in awe of the singing performances. Every cast member gave a superb performance, bringing the perfect amount of sarcasm and flair to the show. The small orchestra also continually provided great music that added to the production. Price manages to perfectly capture the audience as she exploits the vocals of the cast, and has an ensemble of dressed-up angels serenading the audience with the funniest lyrics throughout the play.

Robert Popoli, who plays main character, Jimmy Harper, begins the play when he falls madly in love with Mary Lane, played by Taryn Wichenko. Both actors characterize themselves as clean-cut American kids – almost to the point of being cringe-worthy – and incorporate high pitched dialogue and exaggerated gestures. Harper’s lack of confidence and inability to dance leads him down the path of marijuana use. With that one toke of marijuana, Harper is hooked. Both characters’ lives revolve around conservative principles, well-to-do parents and the Catholic faith. 

Even during the beginning of the show, Elena Reyes, who plays The Lecturer, states that this theatrical production is based on true events supporting the ideology that marijuana was the assassin of youth in the 30s. Overemphasizing this concept, the play lampoons this idea with cameos from Jesus, Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty.

Though this play might not be suitable for children, it will definitely grab the attention of a Western student.

Reefer Madness runs at the King’s Joanne and Peter Kenny theatre until Jan. 28.

Tickets may be purchased by contacting kingsplayersmusical@gmail.com. Tickets are $15 for members/students/seniors, or $20 for adults.

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