Reefer Madness burns with humor and depth.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Reefer Madness began life in 1936 as a cautionary film made by a church group about the dangers of “evil” marijuana, but its naivete marked it for satire. In the 1970s, it was picked up for the midnight picture show circuit, enjoyed by multitudes of people who were high. (Aside: Those screenings served as seed money for New Line Cinema, which gave us the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) In 2001, Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy sparked up their musical that spun the unintentional humor into fuzzy green fun on stage.
The story, set in the 1930s, follows squeaky-clean teen couple Jimmy Turner and Mary Lane, who get lured into a subculture of unsavory characters like Jack the weed pusher, crazed fiend Ralph and wanton addicts Mae and Sally.
Paper Wing wrings out the irony. The narrator extols the newspaper stories of William Randolph Hearst but warns the audience about “ginger-colored agents of evil” like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. The songs are clever and hit the satirical bullseye, and sometimes get explicit and rough, but the story is surprisingly touching, like when Mae sings a torch song to marijuana addiction.
Somewhere, the farcical facade of the story melts away and reveals histrionic conflicts of inner turmoil, good versus evil and redemption. The excellent stuff in this show is good, dirty fun.
REEFER MADNESS plays 8pm Fri-Sat through April 28, at PaperWing Theatre, 320 Hoffman Ave., Monterey. $20-$23. 905-5684, www.PaperWingTheatreCo.com