Reefer Madness, onstage now at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre (NRACT), is a tongue-in-cheek satire-turned-tragicomedy, and this production, under the colorful direction of Jon Todd, wastes no time in getting to the “comedy” part.
As the curtains open on the purposefully bare-bones set (the play-within-a-play operates under the guise that a makeshift theatre group is performing a show on the perils of marijuana usage), The Lecturer (Mark Taranto) is the main focus, thanks in large part to careful lighting and staging. The lighting, it must be mentioned, is carefully executed throughout so as to always draw attention to the correct characters and actions, which is important since things get rather frantic at times.
Taranto’s character serves as guide and narrator to the “performance” about to take place, and he delivers his lines with all the sarcasm, wit, and hilarity such a character calls for. And, as the story unfolds, it’s clear that Taranto isn’t the only one with talent (and comedic chops!) aplenty.
Innocent-faced Zak Casca stars as Jimmy, a young man involved in a wholesome relationship with the sweet-and-pleasant Mary Lane (Ashley Jones). Unfortunately for Jimmy, he falls in with the wrong crowd at the town’s “Reefer Den,” which ultimately leads to his destruction in a hilarious sort-of-way.
Casca is very physical in his portrayal, making him a lot of fun to watch, and Jones has a powerful singing voice and an innocent quality that bring her character perfectly to life. Other standouts in the cast include Julia Fair as the surprisingly tender-hearted Mae, the Reefer Den hostess, and Lauren Knott as sultry, troubled Sally, a marijuana addict (are you laughing yet?) who lives at the Reefer Den and lures in young men with her charms.
However, the whole, diverse cast- NRACT always does a good job of bringing in people with a wide range of ages, looks, and sizes- is really on-point for this one. The entire ensemble is a flurry of perfectly-choreographed, colorfully-costumed, fun-to-watch characters who never miss a beat. In fact, some of the ensemble cast, including Thomas Porter and Kelly Heron, really stands out in an amazing kind of way.
All of these people work so hard to bring this funny and timely (though it’s set in 1938) show to life and are having such a good time doing it, that the audience can’t help “catching the buzz.” While there were a few sound problems at Saturday night’s performance, even those weren’t enough to dampen this feel-good, super-fun comedy, which should be at the top of everyone’s watch list.
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents REEFER MADNESS: THE MUSICAL at 8 p.m. Oct. 15-17, 3 p.m. Oct. 18, 8 p.m. Oct. 22-24, and 3 p.m. Oct. 25 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.
TICKETS: $12 Thursdays; $20 Fridays and Saturdays ($17 students, seniors, active-duty military personnel, and teachers); and $18 ($15 students, seniors, active-duty military personnel, and teachers).
BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://nract.org/tickets.
SHOW: http://nract.org/upcoming-productions/624-reefer-madness and https://www.facebook.com/events/487538534734402/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.
Reefer Madness (1936 cult film): http://tcmdb.com/title/title.jsp?stid=87909 (TCM Movie Database), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028346/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reefer_Madness (Wikipedia).
Reefer Madness: The Musical (1998 Los Angeles and 2001 Off-Broadway musical): http://www.reefermadness.org/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/ (Off-Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reefer_Madness_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Dan Studney (music and book): http://www.reefermadness.org/writers/authors.html (Reefer Madness: The Musical website bio), http://www.rnh.com/bio/48/Studney-Dan (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0836081/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://twitter.com/danstudney (Twitter page).
Kevin Murphy (book and lyrics): http://www.reefermadness.org/writers/authors.html (Reefer Madness: The Musical website bio), http://www.rnh.com/bio/117/Murphy-Kevin (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614441/ (Internet Movie Database), https://twitter.com/kevinmurphyhc (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Murphy_%28screenwriter%29 (Wikipedia).
Reefer Madness (2005 TV movie): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/546510/Reefer-Madness/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0404364/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reefer_Madness_%282005_film%29 (Wikipedia).
Jon Todd (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/todd.jon (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.