Theatre Review: Jesus Says Don...t Do Drugs
Who Says Propaganda Can...t Be Funny?
By Jillian Berry
MIT Musical Theatre Guild
Directed by J. Michael Spencer
La Sala de Puerto Rico
Friday – Saturday, Feb. 2-4
Reefer Madness is based on a 1936 movie designed for parents as a cautionary tale about the dangers of marijuana. Full of propaganda, the film was one of the tools used to raise support for the criminalization of marijuana (which was legal in the US until 1937). However, 70 years later, the musical is more of a commentary on the use of propaganda to sway public support on issues present today.
The MIT Musical Theatre Guild’s (MTG) performance of Reefer Madness is true to its roots as a social commentary, but more importantly, it is entertaining and humorous. The absolutely ludicrous fears and dangers represented to the public are hysterical as they are pointed out by The Lecturer (Darrell D. Cain ’08) and the Placard Girl (Jessica K. Wong ’10). In particular, the placards were very good at succinctly describing the dangers of marijuana, with statements such as: “Reefer makes you sell your baby for drug money;” “Reefer kills poor old men;” and “Reefer gives you a potty mouth.” These comments drew some of the biggest laughs.
To emphasize just how dangerous reefer really is, the Lecturer tells us the story of Jimmy Harper (Matthew N. Stern ’08), a nice 16 year old boy, who wants nothing more than to date the beautiful Mary Lane (Nicolina A. Akraboff ’07). His friend Jack (Daniel A. Perez ’10) is a regular Fred Astaire, but alas, also a dealer of the dreaded reefer. When Mary Lane asks the un-coordinated Jimmy to go dancing, Jimmy is easily influenced by Jack to buy marijuana to improve his skills. Sure enough, here begins Jimmy’s downward spiral, which drags Mary Lane down too.
The story was interesting, but occasionally slow — gee, it really took Mary Lane a while to notice that her boyfriend was always high. However, MTG should not be blamed for a flaw that has to do more with the script and less with the acting.
In contrast, the music was well done and very entertaining. In particular, the solos were impressive. Cain was great, with a perfectly tuned voice that was deep, powerful, and graceful. Furthermore, Akraboff’s rendition of “Lonely Pew” let her voice shine in this sad song about her spiritual loss of Jimmy. But the person whose solo stole the show was Jesus (Kenneth N. Kamrin G). Though Kamrin’s solo was not as technically difficult as Cain’s or Akraboff’s, it was by far the liveliest and most entertaining, and it revived the audience from a mid-act slump.
In addition to the soloists, the orchestra, under the musical direction of William J. Andrews ’06 (who is also the Campus Life editor for The Tech), was impressive. They were always together with each other, as well as the singers, and they successfully filled the air with music while the sets were being changed. In addition, they really got the audience to feel part of the musical as they encouraged us to sing along during one of the last songs of Act I.
The only flaws in the music really occurred when the whole cast was singing, and there were multiple parts being sung. In songs like these, everything became a bit jumbled, and I was lucky if I could clearly hear what one person was singing, which was really disappointing. However, when the whole cast was singing the same part, they were much more in sync and easier to understand.
Overall, Reefer Madness was both entertaining and meaningful. And if there is one thing the Lecturer would like you to take away from the experience, it is this: Don’t do drugs!