The Blue Raccoon

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Happy Fifth of July
Last chances to see "Reefer Madness"

Cast Photo (l-r) Front: Matt Beyer (as Franklin Delano Roosevelt) , Michael Carl Rieman (dope addicted and unjustly sentenced to die Jimmy), Kimberly Jones-Clark (the co-dependent reefer den moll May); Middle: Chris Hester (patriotic here, as opposed to pusher or Jesus), Jake Ashey (a reefer den denizen); Back: Joy Newsome (who, when not a mighty fine Lady Liberty, also plays a dope-distracted negligent mother and vehicular homicider).

When did July 4th become New Year's Eve? Thanks to our friend Katherine, The Partner In Art For Life and me careened around Richmond taking in various gatherings of friends (thanks to Alan and Sally for their hospitality, and Lynn and Will for dinner) and tried to see the fireworks from poolside except they were delayed due to the baseball game (the Braves' last here in Richmond) and we caught the added on special late-night performance of Reefer Madness, directed by Jase Smith.

Tonight's show is your last opportunity to catch the buzz. See information here.

I took this experience earlier in the run while Amie was auf Deutschland, and enjoyed the opportunity to see the play again at the unfortunate conclusion of its run. It was tighter and funnier, and even a minor set malfunction in the second act couldn't break its stride. From the beginning, when the play bursts out across the stage reminding me of a streamer-exploding fire cracker, to the quasi-redemptive finale and wacky tableaux that includes Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jesus, this is a wildly entertaining ride. And if you missed it, well, you missed out.

Seeing it again, the drug-war-leads-to-authoritarinism-with-a-smile message of the end was more impressive. And I wondered if writers
Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney opted out of giving the play the similar conclusion as its kind of a dramatic template,
Romeo and Juliet. The innocent Mary Lane gets shot in cold blood, but the intervention of May, the Reefer Den moll, who somehow manages to get FDR to halt the electrocution of Jimmy for a vehicular murder he did not commit. Guess because its a comedy.

We couldn't have both Jimmy and Mary Lane dead, and Jesus crooning about their dead souls consigned to hell through their use of "the stuff." And I guess, too, there should've been some kind of rumble between the Five & Dime kids and the zombies and reefer den-izens--and there sort of is. But the cast was already 16 people. And I have to say, I'm thrilled to see that many actors on the Firehouse's stage. I just love all that talent and beauty. A sensory feast - in a low-budget, black box theater kind of way.

No, this play is about our culture's preoccupation with drugs and how the authoritative effort to repress them and oppress the users corresponds to a deeper need for control and order in all things, which, of course, is impossible. The latter day "drug war" may have somehow started out of some perverse need to impose morality. But for certain now, it is about control -- and profiteering.

Much like the computer virus technology that would be put out of business if something was designed to make all computers safe, the effort to rid the culture of drugs makes money for people along the way. Just like oil, (or ethanol), just like everything else that appeals to people's desire for emotional alleviation, and exploitation of their weaknesses.

And Reefer Madness is just damn funny.

And now, for your viewing and flag-waving pleasure, Miss Raquel Welch:

This is what makes America great.

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