You know that TV commercial with the cable guy who confesses that he can’t compete with the Fios guy, but he has “the best of intentions?” Somehow, Pot: The Musical, now playing at The Electric Lodge in Venice, reminds me of that cable guy. The show has been mounted with the best of intentions, but it doesn’t offer all that much. Nevertheless, you want to like it because it’s—nice.
With a book by Diane Shinozaki and music by Steve Huber, Pot takes place in an apparent present day setting (there’s a brief reference to the current Venice overnight parking controversy) and recounts the adventures of “Sweetie,” a likeable young woman who has trouble finding her place in the world. Her mother wants her to be a church-going, clean-living type and sings to her about the evils of “pot.” Sweetie works in a hospital and gets canned for offering a cannabis-based medication to a suffering patient. Sweetie’s boyfriend Razz, a wannabe writer, spends his days lying around stoned and contributes nothing to the rent or the relationship (except for dope and his stoner friend Sid who’s always crashing with the couple).
Razz and Sid go to a pro-pot rally in the park, taking with them a plate of “special” brownies. Sweetie attends a church picnic in the same park and brings a plate of brownies she baked according to her mom’s recipe. The plates of course, get switched and with that switch come the inevitable accidental highs and paradigm shifts.
This ought to be screamingly funny, but it does not come across as much more than a mild giggle. It’s not up to the best of those kings of stoner comedy, Cheech and Chong. At times, it is more reminiscent of bad low-budget movies of the 1960s, but even those movies had histrionics to keep them going. In Pot, there’s too much mellowness to the story line. Some edgy humor, some actual conflict is sorely needed.
The music, with accompaniment provided by backstage recordings and some live acoustic guitar playing, isn’t especially good and the choreography, such as it is, is pretty clunky.
The second act is actually better, more amusing, and delivers more of a punch than the first act, which seems too slow-paced.
There are some clever bits, like an opening number featuring Founding Fathers Adams, Hancock, Franklin, and Jefferson, writing the Declaration of Independence while getting stoned (“No bogarting the doobie, Franklin!”), and Aryiel Hartman as “Pothead Girl”, and Clarke Wolfe as “Church Girl” singing, “I’m High on Jesus (and I’m Just High).” These performers have two of the ensemble’s better singing voices and they’re irresistibly cute.
But what holds the show together is Mandi K. Smith as Sweetie. She projects the widest range of emotions, sings well, plays guitar, and commands our attention every time she is on stage.
Pot: The Musical will provide some enjoyment if your expectations aren’t too high (pun intended). But it isn’t quite the primo stash one hoped it would be.
Pot: The Musical, 8p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2p.m. Sundays, through May 2 at the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue, Venice, 800.838.3006. Special performance April 20 (4/20).
Mirror Contributing Writerlynne@smmirror.com