This play totally makes fun of propaganda, says Sofia Mendez. It takes it, balls it up and throws it back into your face. Mendez plays leading lady Mary Lane, who fights to win back her boyfriend Jimmy Harper from his new love Mary Jane (wink, wink). Jimmys battle is played out to songs like Listen to Jesus, Jimmy, a 70s-inspired, gospel dance number starring an Afro-clad black Jesus, and Down at the Ol Five and Dime, about how a malt shop could be a front for a drug operation. The musical has become a cult classic for its Rocky Horror-esque appeal (i.e., risqué content and irreverent attitude).
Of course, this is also why the show hasnt been embraced by the more conservative suburban crowd. This is nothing new for director John Cash Carpenter, who sent a few shock waves through the neighborhoods surrounding North Harris Community College last year with his production of Urinetown. He says his announcement to close the season this year with Reefer Madness was met with many a raised eyebrow. I had to go through every power that be to get it approved, Cash says. And then Ive had to write all kinds of things like Were not going to smoke reefer onstage. He adds there was also a voice of concern from outside the college. People are saying this is trash theater, I shouldnt be doing it, its for kids, its not true art, its potty humor, he says. Actress Tara Bostwick says her mother even had objections. [She said] I cant take my church friends to see it.
Of course, these fears and concerns about Reefer Madnesss content are what the musical addresses. Many of the performers say their friends are looking forward to the show and even offered to provide them with realistic props (read: weed).
To listen to a podcast with Houston Press assistant Night & Day editor Dusti Rhodes and the cast and director of Reefer Madness, visit www.houstonpress.com