While supervisors consider appeals from marijuana dispensaries, it’s full-on “Reefer Madness” at The Empty Space. The musical based on the 1936 propaganda film on the dangers of the green herb returns to the Oak Street theater.
Although the original film was a cautionary tale, the 1998 musical (and 2005 film based on it) are in on the joke.
"If you need a good laugh, fun distraction or some provoking thoughts, 'Reefer Madness' is the show for you," director Daniel Korth wrote in an email.
A fan of the movie musical after seeing it in college, Korth really took a shine to the stage play and had it on his list of shows to do.
He said it's more relevant as many people are receiving news now more like they did in the 1930s, reading opinions more than facts, with propaganda and political viewpoints the underlining forces behind a lot of the news we receive.
"The show satirizes that more than anything," he wrote. "And it's smart camp too. A lot of campy shows go for low-hanging fruit and the easy jokes, but Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney wrote a fantastic, smart script that delivers on the camp, but is also nuanced and layered in its humor."
In the show, Lecturer (Mariah Jordan), a stern authority figure, opens by warning the audience of the new drug marijuana and offers the cautionary tale "the Harper affair," which begins with wholesome teens Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane (Jeremy Swofford and Kara Coughenour).
Jimmy ends up falling in with the denizens of the Reefer Den, who include hostess Mae (Gari Galanski), who's abused by her pusher boyfriend who keeps her supplied with drugs; Ralph (Nolan Long), a psychotic college dropout who is always laughing; and Sally, who uses her body to support her illegitimate baby and pay for her habit.
Korth wants audiences to have a good time — and walk away with some food for thought.
He wrote, "I'd love for people to come away thinking about sources of information and why things might be portrayed one way or another. We get grabbed on buzzwords like 'save our children, save our country.' The show even takes it further, 'stop the menace, kill the devil.' But it's our duty to verify source material and find corroborating evidence. Otherwise we may end up hurting our children and our country by blindly following bad, or misguided, advice.
"What may seem as good, wholesome warnings and lessons may really be covers for bigotry, hatred and control."
In addition to the usual seating, the theater will offer VIP tables ($60), which include front row seating for two, a create-your-own-cocktail tabletop bar (rum, vodka and mixers) and an assortment of mouthwatering munchies. Chips, cookies, candy and cocktails will also be sold at the Space Bar for anyone with cravings.
"Reefer Madness" opens Friday and runs Fridays and Saturdays through April 6.