Off Broadway Reviews
Man, I'm totally buzzed, and do I have a case of the munchies! Talk about a high, the new off-Broadway comedy The Marijuana-Logues is one feel-good toke. I haven't had this much fun since . . . um . . . ah . . . I can't remember. Guess I should lay off the weed.
Ok, so maybe this new play isn't profound, but like the show's subject matter, when you're under the influence, it's good. For those who might think that it's impossible to do an entire evening of marijuana jokes and stories, guess again. The show's creators/performers Arj Barker, Doug Benson, and Tony Camin, or the "Marijuana-Loguers" as they call themselves, have come up with an evening of entertainment that is often side-splittingly funny. Leave your stereotype of the half-baked stoner at home; these guys are very alert and have their material down like clockwork, providing hit after hit of funny send-ups, commentary, and anecdotes.
Some people, as I initially was, might be insulted by the show's title riffing off of Eve Ensler's funny, yet ultimately more serious, work The Vagina Monologues. Yet in retrospect, the subject of marijuana, hash, weed (the performers rattle off a long list of euphemisms and names for the drug) is actually a logical descendent of Ensler's masterpiece. Just as the vagina has its own "code words" and "folklore" among women, Barker, Benson, and Camin revel in the expansiveness of pot head culture from practical uses for hemp to the origins of the number 4:20, the "traditional" time of day to light up. The show even deconstructs those "pesky" anti-pot ads, revealing them to be overly hysterical concerning the deleterious effects of "grass."
Seated on stools with music stands, mics, and scripts as prompts, Barker, Benson and Camin, under Jim Millan's direction, keep things moving at a fast tempo. The monologues jump from performer to performer, well lit by Gregory Allen Hirsch with his cannabis plant projections, as they each tell stories, some funnier than others, with a marijuana theme. The cast expounds on a variety of topics including "If Marijuana Could Talk, What It Would Say," "How Pot Works," and "Bach on Pot," the latter being one of the evening's strongest pieces that comically proves that all live music, even Bach, is better with weed.
What's particularly refreshing is how well-written and hilarious these polished tales are. The evening is so full of puns, wordplay, and laugh-out-loud funny writing that it's hard to believe that the three men are the dedicated pot heads that they claim to be. Despite the lack of staging, each of the men is a strong actor with standout work by Barker. Perhaps the show's greatest delight and what makes the material work so well is that it's often delivered with deadpan seriousness à la The Daily Show. This heady disjunction between the cast's earnest delivery and the silly subject matter creates the perfect tone for the evening in what might have simply turned into puerile humor.
At a brisk intermissionless hour and twenty-five minutes, the show sails by. Though you might think that this work would run out of steam, it never feels overlong or forced, and the laughs keep coming right up to the end. The night I went, the audience was laughing uncontrollably in the aisles, and if that's any indication, this show should have a healthy run. Hopefully the "fez" won't be making The Marijuana-Logues illegal anytime soon.