Audience Review: REEFER MADNESS at Players Club of Swarthmore

by Patricia Bradford

Beware! This cautionary tale of Jimmy, a fine young man undone by the insidious devil’s weed is addictive! You may find yourself, completely engaged, humming along, and yes, even toe-tapping. There is no remedy! See the REEFER MADNESS musical even one time and you’ll be hooked!

From the start, the play captures the essence of the 1936 film, and sends it up in smoke. Jeff Berry as The Lecturer opens the show by warning us of the shocking events we are about to see. His read is just right – delivering oh-so-serious lines without cracking a smile. Just in case we fail to grasp the dangers of the situation, the Placard Girl (Madeline Iacobucci) displays signs to clue in those more naive audience members. Oh! Now we get it. Marijuana is bad!

Enter young Jimmy, a nice boy and all around good egg (Andrew Dean Laino). Laino plays Jimmy with a sweet, gee whiz charm. Oh, Jimmy, if you only knew the troubles that await you! Equally wholesome and innocent is would be girlfriend Mary (Meg Cranney). Cranney’s Mary is sweet and perky and later…you’ll see. These swell kids meet up with their pals at Poppy’s soda shop where it is revealed that Jimmy can’t dance. Oh no! Jack (Jeffrey Barg) to the rescue! Come with me, he says, and I’ll teach you how to dance.

Unbeknownst to Jimmy, Jack is a Bad Man. Barg does a wonderful job of implying danger yet pulling off straight-faced humour. He leads hapless Jimmy to Mae’s reefer den and the downward slide begins. Mae (a brassy and haunted Cathy Gibbons Mostek) is a full-blown reefer addict, willing to do anything for the stuff. Sally (dynamic Dana Corvino), an immoral reefer tart, is so ensnared by the marijuana that she hasn’t even gotten around to naming her baby (a comic…you’ll see). Giddy and frenetically energetic Ralph (Chaz Meyers) rounds out the crew. It is later revealed that Miss Poppy (excellent dancer Meghan Schulz) is also a contributor to Jimmy’s downfall. One puff of that reefer, and poor Jimmy is a goner.

Mary knows that Jimmy just hasn’t been himself lately, but gosh, she isn’t sure what’s wrong. Jesus (charming and persuasive Christian Carter) has a better idea but even he, Jesus, can’t reach reefer addled Jimmy. The Goat Man (Greg Hedler, who is having waaaay too much fun) has Jimmy firmly in his sway! Will Romeo Jimmy escape and be reunited with his Juliet in time for the prom? Will the bad people get their comeuppance? Come see for yourself! And suggestion, consider buying your tickets online ahead of time, this is likely to sell out. If you wait to buy tickets at the door, bring cash.

Back to the play. Throughout the production, catchy tune follows catchy tune. This is a show where ensemble is in constant motion – no marching out the townsfolk here. There are numerous costume changes and simple yet effective scene changes. Director Thomas-Robert Irvin managed to squeeze a big, fabulous show into a small space without ever making to look cluttered. The pacing is perfect, the songs are fun, and the cast looks like they had a great time sharing this tale.

Ensemble includes: Randino Del Rosario (hilarious doubling as Old Man), Amy Goldman, Greg Hedler, Talia Kassie, Chaz Meyers, Catrine Olibrice, Mary Elizabeth Quirk, Nick Shaffer, and Vince Vuono. Jeff Berry also played numerous roles within his larger role of The Lecturer.

Playing January 27th through February 5th. Players Club of Swarthmore, Second Stage, 614 Fairview Ave, Swarthmore PA 19081 (610) 328-4271

Players Club of Swarthmore

Review submitted by:
Anne Lannak

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