Stoner comedy is a strange subgenre. Never trying to push much of an agenda, and getting heavily distracted on the way towards an ending, it is a type of comedy that asks you simply to relax, and come along on a journey. Making no pretence of being anything other than a frivolous jaunt, Stoned, Stupid and Stuck ambles along but entertains nevertheless. Pitching itself somewhere between Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Pineapple Express, Sweaty Palms Productions offer a piece of theatre that is certainly never dull, but is perhaps inhibited by its own relative simplicity.
A piece of theatre that is certainly never dull, but is perhaps inhibited by its own relative simplicity.
Feeling cooped up in a small Californian town near the redwoods in California, drug dealer Sequoyah dreams of moving out of her mum’s house. She, along with her best friend Rose, are the stuck individuals, repeatedly stupid throughout the show, and yes, often stoned. Desperation settling in, the two forge a genius plan to steal some potent magic mushrooms from a creepy veteran, and sell them at a drug fuelled weekend festival taking place by the river. Predictable mishaps and colourful trips ensue, as the script navigates swiftly through subjects more serious topics too. Briefly covering Sequoyah’s alcoholic stepfather and Rose’s meth-addicted sister, the play also adjourns briefly at times to discuss the effect of human expansion into the forest on the animals living there. Despite the solemnity suggested, the fog of marijuana never really begins to dissipate.
For a relatively unexplored subgenre, especially in theatre, Sweaty Palms do little to try and break any conventions. As Sequoyah and Rose go from one high to the next, nothing in the script surprises. The wonderous possibilities of hallucinogens are quite unexplored, allowing instead merely for the actors to prance around in coloured clothing, or play animals that have gained the ability to speak. It is a shame, because the cast are clearly so talented and exhibit excellent comic timing, to see them restrained to tropes in this way. The comedy, whilst very funny at times, can feel a little on the nose, but the show strikes gold when breaking theatrical form to mock it’s own status as a play – it’s need for multi-rolling, for example. Clearly there is a loose improvisational feel here, and the cast could enjoy wonderful success experimenting and workshopping to see which areas of the script really work, and which don’t so well. By playing around with some more interesting staging, and being a little more crazy with their ideas, this group could achieve something strikingly original and quite original.
Sweaty Palms make it quite clear that they are not trying to say much with this production. With overused and slightly lazy narration, Sequoyah summarises the after effects of this arguably wild ride, highlighting how little has changed from when we started. This is perhaps the point, but the fact that the group did attempt some meaningful sentiments along the way means that it is a bit of a shame to close the show in such a hollow manner. As the cast’s laughs turn to tears, the lingering sense of satisfaction over the last hour’s entertainment is undercut ever so slightly by the thought that everything shown could easily have been that bit more impactful.