By KATIE B. O’CONNOR
“Reefer Madness” by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney is based on a 1930’s anti-marijuana public service announcement and is meant to be the tongue-in-cheek “reenactment” of two high school sweethearts—Jimmy (junior Kristjen Kjems) and Mary (sophomore Andriana Lozier)—and their descent into the seedy underbelly of society.
Sophomore Kyle McCartt stands out as Jesus (who wouldn’t?) with over exaggerated charm, making his song “Listen to Jesus, Jimmy” more reminiscent of a Wayne Newton croon rather than a gospel number. His face is inexplicably smeared with reddish-brown makeup and it’s unclear whether this is supposed to be an attempt to make the blue-eyed blonde-haired McCartt look more Israeli, or appear dirty after traveling from heaven. Either way, his makeup was both perplexing and distracting.
The intimacy of a small space can backfire when the acoustics reveal deficiencies in the cast’s pitch perception, as was the case with a few actors on Thursday night. Jimmy and Mary’s first duet “Romeo & Juliet” is a bit wobbly, but Mary sings expertly on her own in “Lonely Pew.”
Dance choreographer graduate student Samantha Packard manages the difficult task of large dance numbers in a very limited space by emphasizing the individual rather than the group, so that motions are close to the dancers’ bodies, allowing more space in the theater for the audience to observe.
The best numbers are those that involve the full 14-person company, including “Mary Jane/Mary Lane” and “The Truth.” Both numbers are infused with energy and include the audience, especially “Mary Jane/Mary Lane,” where the audience is encouraged to sing the refrain with the aid of a karaoke-style bouncing ball. “The Truth” is one of the final numbers of the play, and appeared to be the least rehearsed. Halfway through the song, actors began to stumble and look to one another as to which lyric or dance move was next. However, the energy did not suffer much and the song was still enjoyable.
Audiences may be offended by the orgy scene, so I would recommend that those with closed minds to avert their eyes and examine the walls, which are creatively decorated with glow paint only visible with the aid of a black light. The orgy scene is a caricatured representation of all hell breaking loose, as is quite clear when Satan (senior Michelle Rother) comes onstage for a solo. Make sure to keep your eyes on Ralph (junior Taylor Williams) who slinks around the stage in a coconut bra and a sparse grass skirt, having his way with every member of the ensemble.
“Reefer Madness” is reminiscent of “Bat Boy” (produced by the Department of Theatre and Dance in fall 2006) in its desire to push the envelope and the cast’s overwhelming enthusiasm. It’s clear that the company is having a blast performing, and if you sit back and keep in mind that the production is mean to be a parody, you’ll have just as much fun watching as the cast does performing.
Tickets for “Reefer Madness” are released an hour prior to the performance. Due to the limited amount of seats, it is advised that audience members arrive two hours before the performance to ensure a place in line. See Bullet Points for times.