When I walked into Kendall Hall on opening night, Nov. 19, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. All I had to go by was the slightly foreboding, possibly informative, but definitely intriguing title of the show, “Reefer Madness.”
To my surprise, “Reefer Madness” was all of those things, and more.
The show was intensely interesting. Portrayed as a warped morality tale with a school lecturer trying desperately to get parents upset about marijuana, the play spoofed the original movie’s intention perfectly.
The opening number, “Reefer Madness,” was spot-on. “Reefer zombies” slithered and writhed while singing the creepy refrain, also the name of the song. “Romeo and Juliet,” the play’s introduction to lead characters Jimmy and Mary Lane, played by freshman accounting major Joe Fillari and senior communication studies major Elaine White, was both adorable, silly, and a little sad. It wasn’t hard to figure out something was going to go terribly wrong in the young couple’s lives.
Vincent St. John, senior computer science major, stole the show as The Lecturer, the mad ringmaster of the entire show, who was trying to get parents to understand the dangers of marijuana. For the play to work, The Lecturer had to capture the audience and keep all in attendance interested, and St. John did both of these things. From directing the other actors during the show to popping up at the most interesting times, he was by far the most memorable character.
Events took a turn for the worse after the opening songs.
While singing the jovial “Down at the Ol’ Five and Dime” — an homage to ’30s-style music and dance — Jimmy was coerced by Jack Stone, played by freshman engineering major Joe Tible, into coming back to his place to learn how to dance so he could impress Mary Lane. It’s there that “Jimmy Takes a Hit” and the play got off and rolling.
Cat Cosentino, senior communication studies major, and Dreena Moran, senior English major, were believable as potheads stuck in Jack Stone’s reefer den. Moran’s performance shined at the end of the play when she finally stepped up and saved Jimmy.
Newcomer Tible was great as Jack Stone, the perpetrator of all the “Madness.” The character was easy to hate, and that spoke wondrous volumes of Tible’s performance.
Once when Jimmy was high as a kite for the first time, “The Orgy” occurred. This was the most provocative number, both sexy and a little discomfiting, with the entire cast grinding together in flesh-colored body suits with only oversized marijuana leaves preventing full exposure. The song itself was slinky, the choreography imaginative, but from up close, it was also a little much at times.
Still, they definitely got their point across.
Another song worth mentioning is “Lonely Pew,” a solo number by White. Mary Lane was upset that Jimmy hadn’t joined her at church (since he was off being a crazy reefer zombie), and the song that follows was sad and beautiful. Whereas other parts of the play made fun of Mary Lane for her purity, with this song the character was vindicated. White, in her last main stage performance at the College according to the playbill, was brilliant.
Finally, there were “Listen to Jesus, Jimmy” and “Lullaby.” The latter was a sad little song about a baby, played by senior nursing major Freddie Paiva, sold by his mother for pot money (“My mommy never named me/I guess she was too high”).
And the former was another one of those provocative-bordering-on-uncomfortable numbers. Jesus came down and told Jimmy to stop smoking weed and get back on the right path — with scantily clad angels and religious mockery thrown in, of course. Ray McCue, junior Spanish secondary education major, was a hoot as the sleazy Son of God.
Fillari’s portrayal of Jimmy was equally strong — his descent from boy-next-door to weed junkie was silly yet sad — and the introduction of these two fine freshmen suggests that TMT will be as remarkable as always in the next four years.
“Reefer Madness” was, in the end, a thought-provoking musical, most likely without meaning to be one. The original was trying to educate clueless parents about a new danger, and this musical version made fun of both their fear and the ’30s time period. Nevertheless, “Reefer Madness” was a fantastic production, and we will definitely think twice before lighting up.