If you've seen the 1936 anti-pot film Reefer Madness!, then you're familiar with the over-the-top blend of hysteria and misinformation that characterizes the movie. The musical version does the film one better, keeping the public service announcement format while upping the cheese factor by introducing some spirited song-and-dance numbers to the mix.
The plot follows young Jimmy (Andrew Bray), an all-American type who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd, smokes his first marijuana cigarette, and promptly embarks on a journey of drug abuse, sexual depravity, and crime. His girlfriend, the wholesome Mary Lane, tries to help him, but she too falls victim to the devil-weed. Even the intervention of Jesus himself can't turn Jimmy from his debauched path.
The songs are funny, and catchy as hell, and the Stumptown cast does a great job with the material. The highlight of the show is definitely Nartan Woods as a flamboyant, glittering Jesus, whose witty, energetic number, "Listen to Jesus, Jimmy," had the audience clapping along. The principals all do solid work—in particular, Erin Charles' Mary Lane is pious and good without being too hateable. The rigidly choreographed dance numbers are livened up by ensemble members Roya Yazhari and Sarah Iverson, who bring a welcome dose of sex appeal to the production (so, for that matter, does Woods' Jesus, who has impressive abs and a loincloth that I can only assume contains a sock).
Though the cast held up their end of the performance, there were some unfortunate issues with both direction and tech. The pacing was off—the first act dragged interminably, and some of the slower scenes simply took too long. The staging was just puzzling: So much of the action took place in front of the stage itself, radically limiting sightlines, that from my seat in the fourth row I missed a lot of what was going on.
As for the technical side: The sound was frustratingly off, phasing in and out throughout the performance. The lighting was murky, making it difficult to focus on the stage, and the spotlights always seemed a split second behind. Problems like these have the unfortunate effect of making the whole production seem hackneyed, when in fact just about every other aspect of the production—from the cast to the tight five-person orchestra—was solid and professional.
One can only hope, though, that these issues will soon be worked out. The cast does a fantastic job with this silly, engaging production, and they deserve mics and spotlights that do their performances justice.