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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

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‘Reefer Madness’ play avoids propaganda

By Daniel Lazzara, News Correspondent

The controversial pull of NUStage Musical Theatre Company’s fall 2010 musical, Reefer Madness, is the drug for which it is named: marijuana. Located at the heart of the play’s plot, the cannabis craze could draw in audiences eager to hear NUStage’s side of the legalization controversy. However, people might be surprised to find a lack of promotion. There is no drug rally this weekend at Blackman Audorium, but rather a smart comedy on a common topic in today’s culture and legislature.

“See a show that is against thrusting views in your face,” said Jess Levasseur, a senior theatre major and director of NUStage’s Reefer Madness.

The student theatre group, formerly named The Great White Way, is putting on the musical satire this Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. in Blackman Auditorium. Levasseur said the play is “anti-propaganda” but delivers with fun and laughs. The student-run group created all the sets, costumes and choreography. And after nearly four months of work, the Tom Jones-themed Jesus number will be sure to draw much more than a chuckle, along with the other lyrically humorous dance numbers in the play.

The musical follows the intertwining story of six people who are drug dealers, high school students or their friends. One tragedy after another unfolds as the plot progresses, eventually leading to appearances by a dominatrix, zombies and even orgies.

The play’s name alone draws curious students, but they probably don’t know that the play was originally a movie. In fact, the accompanying title for the original film from 1938 was “Tell Your Children.” The original was meant to be a pure propaganda message, warning parents about the horrible dangers of their children smoking marijuana. NUStage’s selection has a modern-day hot topic at hand.

“Reefer Madness” is based on the 1998 musical of the same name and includes all of its original scores. Similarly, the 2005 Showtime film adaptation of Reefer Madness, jump-starting the career of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s” Kristen Bell, was in line with the Broadway musical, as well. The lyrics are littered with humor and the musical genres range from rock to pop to country and more.

The play promises to display some real talent, Levasseur said. This will be Levasseur’s third and final directorial piece for NUStage.

The past three years have seen the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in Massachusetts and, more recently, a narrow defeat of Proposition 19 in California, which would have legalized and regulated sale of the drug. More and more popular entertainers are appearing to promote the acceptance of the illegal drug. Even two recent US presidents have admitted to enjoying marijuana’s tender kiss. As Bob Dylan, who ironically sang “Everybody must get stoned,” once said, the times they are a-changing.

Or so it seems.

Jack McDevitt, associate dean of Northeastern’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, seems to think otherwise.

“The use of these kinds of drugs does tend to cycle over time and could just be a trend,” McDevitt said. He also drew a parallel between the high usage of marijuana during the 1970s and 1980s with the increased contemporary use.

McDevitt said there is not enough research that can directly connect the widespread, raised interest in the drug with acceptance among legislators and the general public.

“The college audience generally doesn’t pay too much attention to politics,” McDevitt said. But Reefer Madness may just have Northeastern’s attention this weekend.

Tickets are $7 with a Northeastern ID and $12 without. They can be purchased on myNEU under the myTickets tab or at the box office in Ell Hall.

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