I found myself feeling a bit faint last weekend. Light headed, weak and strangely humorless. Sluggish even when you come right down to it. So, I went through the regular self-diagnosis, as you do, to see if I could find a cause. Enough sleep? More than normal, actually. Enough caffeine? Same cup of coffee in the morning as usual. No personal drama to speak of to be contributing to my state. Plenty to eat and well-balanced even (imagine that). For some time it completely eluded me as to what could be causing such a malaise. And then, out of the haze, it occurred to me: a cheese deficiency. Not the dairy kind, oh no, I was completely overdue for my shot of camp. My hokey levels were dangerously low as a matter of fact. It was at this point I considered what an exceedingly lucky coincidence (or not) it was that I found myself at San Jose Stage’s Reefer Madness. Indeed, I found this show to be just the remedy for anyone suffering from such a condition.
While certainly the controversy over cannabis polarizes some in the real world, and perhaps even more so in the Bay Area, per my “diagnosis” I would suggest you try not to apply anything presented in this production to reality. I do not feel it is meant to (as so many of the Stage’s show do) spur deep conversations, debates and make you think. Conversely, not unlike the warning in this satirical send up, I believe its entire entertainment value is rolled up (pun intended, always) in making fun of everything rather than seriosuly exploring a morality code. So chill and just enjoy the ride.
The cast delivers on the comedy and fully commits to some of trippiest scenarios I’ve ever seen in any musical. Per my no spoilers rule, I can’t comment specifically, but I will say there were some religious experiences and holy moments that were particularly A++.
Of all the tech in this show, costumes are going home with the golden joint (the equivalent of a Tony if Reefer Madness had an award ceremony, says me). From design to practicality they were all the fun and functionality of Vegas showgirl/showboy without crossing into tasteless territory. I think double-sided tape is certainly a contender for best supporting actor too. I’m also giving a HUGE nod to the dressing crew who must have needed a stiff drink after each show with all the quick changes they were tasked with making happen. There were miraculously no wardrobe malfunctions and that is no small feat for this show.
Aside from the main opening riff (which is used throughout, and is quite the maddening ear worm) and the most amazing, adorable and well-crafted song about a brownie ever, I could have oddly done without the vocals. On the night I attended the singing was either off for a good portion of the numbers, or if sung well, the songs just weren’t my bag. Maybe, I’m just too uptight and straight-laced for such deviant jazz compositions, but I will say my dislike overall for the melodies, strangely didn’t seem to impact my enjoyment of the show overall. Lyrics were clever and the band tight and the visuals engaging, so while it is a musical, I was pleased to find my one real critique kind of melting into the background with everything else at such a high entertainment level.
In the end, Reefer Madness did the trick. It certainly replenished the level of camp in my life and provided a nice pick me up. While I’m not fully addicted to its style, it was a pleasurable night for sure. A smoking 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for an enjoyable infusion of laughter and over-the-top ridonkulousness that serves as a legal and affective method of self-medication, sure to lift you out of any funk you might find yourself in. Reefer Madness: The Musical plays through June 30th, at The Stage in Downtown San Jose!