Has it finally come to this? Have years of paranoia and misinformation and government cover-ups so convoluted the issue of drugs and their recreational use (or misuse) that the only possible source of meaningful dialogue is now Reefer Madness: The Musical, which takes as its source material the laughably bad 1936 propaganda film, Reefer Madness? Can a musical featuring pimps, reefer sluts, wide-eyed children, cannibals and Jesus Christ (!) colliding in a maelstrom of rock music, tawdry lyrics and wildly exaggerated dope-fueled antics begin the healing process, providing a common ground for rational discourse on this controversial topic? Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy's searing pastiche of horror, propaganda, satire, sex and smoke may not provide all the answers, but it's a hell of a lot more entertaining than the "Just Say No" policy of ignorance and shame that we as a country have struggled with for the last two decades. Reefer Madness: The Musical is only slightly more ridiculous in its conceit. New Line Theatre performs this act of Kindness at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 26, beginning Thursday, June 3, at ArtLoft Theatre (1529 Washington Avenue; 314-534-1111 for tickets; $10 to $15). -- Paul Friswold
Shiny Little Fest
With the Fringe on tap
The St. Louis Fringe Festival is not a celebration of the lovely suede coat worn by Peter Fonda in Easy Rider. No, this is a celebration of the more outré elements of the theater world. For five glorious days (Wednesday, June 2, through Sunday, June 6), long-form improv, jugglers, avante dance, black-light theater and one-woman shows about circus life all take center stage while still retaining their sharp outsider edge.
The brainchild of local improv- theater guru Ed Reggi, the STLFF draws its inspiration from other cities' successful Fringe Festivals, but with one significant difference: The STLFF takes place right here in St. Louis, which means there is almost no travel involved for most of you reading this. Regardless of location, Reggi has gathered a collection of talent that fairly bulges with the promise of thrills and excitement. Bulges, we say!
Wednesday's kick-off show at CITY Improv (in St. Louis Union Station, 20th and Market streets) is an appetizer of tremendous proportions. For $5, you get juggling phenom Book Kennison, the stylish circus cabaret of the Brothers Kaputnik and improv by Jeff Walker (solo) and Reggi and Parente. Doors open at 7 p.m.
All other shows take place at 7 p.m. at the Center of Creative Arts (524 Trinity Avenue). Tickets for these shows are $8 per one-hour performance (or $20 for the night), but you're getting a lot of bang for your bucks. On Thursday and Saturday night, Sara Moore (pictured) portrays an entire circus in Show Ho, which has been praised as a style of "comic kung-fu"; Chicago's BEATBOX bring their hip-hop improv to Friday night, along with Celestial Theatre, our town's own black-light theater troupe. Sunday is the Best of the Fringe, all night; pity the person who has to make that choice. Check out www.stlfringe.com for the full schedule. -- Paul Friswold
A Capacity for Drama
"This type of facility is sorely needed in our region," opines Mayor Francis Slay. "A good addition that could draw visitors from throughout the metropolitan area," raves Seventh Ward Alderwoman Phyllis Young. What exactly are these worthies boosting? The new Cardinals stadium, the proposed SLU arena, that phantom aquarium that's eaten up so many column inches? No, these plaudits are raised in the name of the First Run Theatre, a newish company dedicated to premiering unpublished work by local playwrights. Plays are chosen on the basis of an annual competition, which opens for submissions on August 1. First Run's second show of the season, Capacity (by veteran stagehound John Williams), about a young man endangered by the actions of his recently deceased father, debuts this weekend at the DeSmet High School theater (233 North New Ballas Road) with 8 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday (June 4 and 5) and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, June 6; the show returns on the same schedule next weekend (June 11 through 13). Tickets are $10 to $12. For more information, check out www.firstruntheatre.com or phone the theater at 314-680-8102. -- Jason Toon
Fare of the Fair
Nothing made 1904 World's Fairgoers hungrier than the cleanliness of coal miners serving lunch. But that's nothing compared to visitors' happiness when a man on horseback dove into a vat of water during dinner -- splash! Man, nowadays you can barely get someone to sing a song during supper. Learn more about these and other fun fair foodie facts (including a prune bear!) in Pamela J. Vaccaro's Beyond the Ice Cream Cone. Vaccaro (pictured) will be signing it at Barnes & Noble (13995 New Halls Ferry Road; 314-830-3550) from 2 to 3 p.m. (after your boring meal). -- Alison Sieloff
When Mickey Mouse appears in the sometimes-nightmarish Fantasia, everyone relaxes. But then he gets into trouble with that sorcerer's hat and wand, and with those marching brooms. But didn't you secretly covet the mischievous mouse's pre-spanking powers? Yeah, bossing with a stick's cool, and now one lucky person will get to conduct the Saint Louis Brass Band at its Family Fun Concert at Concordia Lutheran Church-Kirkwood (505 South Kirkwood Road; 314-995-4955 or www.stlbb.org; $7 to $12). The show, complete with Disney songs (but no brooms), starts at 1:30 p.m. -- Alison Sieloff