Goofy, lighthearted and completely off-kilter, “Reefer Madness” has all the makings of a smash hit for Shadowbox Live.
Based on an off-Broadway musical (which is itself based on a 1936 cult classic film), “Reefer Madness” tells the cautionary tale of 16-year-old Jimmy Harper (played brilliantly by Jamie Barrow). Jimmy is the classic all-American retro teenager until he’s confronted by the drug-dealing Jack (Donathin Frye) who hooks him on marijuana.
Framed as an anti-drug message from two earnest narrators (Tom Cardinal and Mary Randle), the whole story is completely absurd, which is part of the joke. Going to “the reefer den” with the intention of taking dance lessons, Jimmy is practically addicted after one hit, which sends him spiraling into a very un-PC world of crazy hallucinations and an appearance from the Goat-Man (Billy DePetro, in the first of two magnificent performances).
Attempting to rescue the wholesome Jimmy from his new depraved ways is his high school sweetheart Mary Lane (Renee Horton). Horton, a frequent Shadowbox second string player, delivers a strong performance as the doting, ditzy Mary.
Under the direction of Julie Klein, the show hits a balance between being believably outrageous and amusingly serious.
While on the run from the cops, Jimmy is shown “driving,” but it’s really just Barrow in a cardboard box and a pair of click-on closet lights. It’s those kinds of small but brilliant touches that should make this show another Shadowbox classic.