Playwright Challenges Cannabis Stereotypes in “Character References”
Actress, activist, author and cannabis cooperative owner, Sherry Glaser, has a lot on her plate these days. She helps run Love In It, a quaint medical dispensary in California’s Mendocino County, and she also writes and stars in her own one-woman show where she uses her characters to channel and challenge social constructs including smoking cannabis.
Over the weekend, Glaser took to the stage in “Character References” to share her dynamic and hilarious new material. The intimate, two-act show took place in the quiet village of Mendocino at the Matheson Performing Arts Center and was full of social commentary and audience participation.
In the first act, she brought back three of her beloved characters from her previous shows: Miguel Cervantes from “Oh My Goddess” and two characters from “Family Secrets,” Bev and Rose Fisher — all of whom have a personal connection to marijuana.
Miguel Cervantes, the rowdy yet reflective psuedo-philosopher, kicks off the show with a humorous monologue questioning the effectiveness of the government. He confronts issues surrounding war, immigration, human rights, the Obama administration and, of course, the ridiculous federal ban on cannabis. According to him, the way to promote peace, inspire joy, encourage the pursuit of happiness and restore humanity’s natural balance is by legalizing cannabis once and for all.
In this role, Glaser embodies Cervantes’ distinct balance of macho, tender teddy bear — a bandana-sporting, mustached dude talking about the finer points of feminine energy, hemp stations and why pharmacies should have cannabis on the shelves.
In the theater, as the lights dimmed and crowd’s whispering began, Glaser treated the audience to a firsthand view of her transformations from character to character. The music changed and the lights came back up as she blossomed into Bev Fisher before our eyes. She traded the heavy, black slacks for a pair of tights, slipped into a hot pink sweater, put on a short gray wig and applied some lipstick to her lips and cheeks. As soon as she opened her mouth, Miguel was gone and Bev had arrived.
Glaser channeled her beloved mother, Bev, a sweet and straightforward Virgo tired of taking dialysis for her kidney problems. She cancels all of her upcoming appointments and starts planning for her impending death including what she’ll wear and what she wants to be written about her in the funeral program. The audience follows her during the last days of her life where she recounts doctor’s visits, painful shock treatments and why she refused to try cannabis for her ailments despite her daughter’s heartfelt requests.
This true account of Bev’s story illuminated the harmful consequences of making a healing plant like cannabis illegal. Although marijuana could have helped in alleviating some of Bev’s symptoms, it was important to her not to break the law. Because cannabis is banned on a federal level, she chose not to even try the plant.
Her next character, Rose Fisher, narrated a warm tale of Milton’s last days during his bout with cancer. She explained her husband’s change in personality and appetite, lamenting the days when they would laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. Hoping to alleviate his symptoms, Rose and Milton go on a journey for cannabis — first checking for locations on Weedmaps before traveling by bus and train to get to their recommendations and then head to a dispensary.
After trying ganja cookie samples and choosing between various strains like Grape Ape, Vanilla Kush, Mango OG and Strawberry Cough, the couple head home on the train where they have an unsavory encounter that leads to them almost being arrested. Luckily, Milton is able calm the overzealous cop and keep the pot they got to help with his condition. In the end, they smoke, he eats, they laugh and he eventually passes away, but Rose always has those memories of how cannabis brought them together during his last days.
For the second act of the show, entitled “My Spiritual Highway,” Glaser appeared as herself and offered the audience tips on how to become more enlightened. She begins by recounting a police raid that took place earlier this year where her and her family were arrested and the Love In It Cooperative was temporarily shutdown. Because the case is still open, she was only able to say so much, using a bandana to hilariously muffle herself while divulging information about being charged for cultivation, possession and intent to sell.
After comically explaining her painful experience, she hops into tips on how she copes including reciting her tried-and-true mantra (“ouuuch”), her boom chakra lakra exercise and schmoga, her effective and hilarious version of yoga.
Glaser’s ability to breathe life into her characters allowed the audience to journey with her as she morphed from person to person. Overall, it was a great show that explored the many different ways people connect with cannabis in their lives whether personally or politically. From Miguel’s impassioned demands for new cannabis world order to Bev and Rose’s heart-wrenching accounts of health and cannabis, “Character References” explored what it means to live in a society that arbitrarily vilifies a plant and the people that utilize it.
Have you seen any cannabis-centric plays recently? Tell us about them in the comments.