“Is this legal?”
“More or less!”
Welcome to the weird world of D.C. marijuana gifting.
In the District of Columbia, every law comes with an asterisk. The Council can overturn a measure passed by voters at referendum before it even takes effect. A U.S. Congress, where D.C. has no true representative, can overturn any city law at any time. While it’s now legal to possess marijuana—at least until Congress decides otherwise—it is not legal to sell it.
…the most realistic and cutting look at the reality of the modern District…a must-see.
Clever entrepreneurs have found a loophole. They can sell a cheap item—a candy bar, a box of juice—for an exorbitant price, and offer the customer a “gift” of marijuana along with it. So far, both Council and Congress have opted to look the other way, but the owners of these gifting businesses are never sure how long they will be safe.
One such shop is the setting for “Green Machine,” a sharp satire about the cultural and economic shifts in the District’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Once almost entirely Black and Latino, Mount Pleasant is now majority white. A rowhouse that would have sold 50 years ago for $40,000 (about $285,000 in today’s dollars) may now list for more than a million, and sell for even more than that.
The shop’s owner is Mike, a well-meaning perennial screw-up who really wants to make some business—ANY business—work in the city he loves. Nick DePinto plays Mike with casual charm, making the audience root for him even as his concerned sister (played by Shari L. Lewis with sincerity) tries to force him to accept that he comes from privilege and only the father Mike disdains has kept his ever-shifting dreams afloat.
Mike’s chief partner is James Lewis’s Leon, a Black realtor whose neighborhood native father worked three jobs to keep their family in the middle class. Leon wants the business to succeed, but is frustrated by Mike’s carelessness and cutting corners. Knowing that money is hard to come by and harder to keep, Leon is more interested in business success than in proving some vague political point.
They are also partnered with Corbin, a hippie who came to Mount Pleasant a half-century ago and who now mainly lives by occasionally refinancing one of those once-cheap, now-pricey houses. “The thing is an ATM,” he says, with some wonder. Corbin is a blunt voice of truth about the changes in the community, though he is more able to honor its history than to cope with its present. (In the performance I attended, Corbin was adroitly portrayed by understudy Stephen Patrick Martin.)
Plays about D.C.—both the political city and the historic and diverse community beyond—are mainstays of Capital Fringe, but their quality varies greatly. Playwright Jim McNeill and director Catherine Aselford have created the most realistic and cutting look at the reality of the modern District that I have seen in a decade of attending Fringe shows. The local references are organic, not forced, and actually relate to the plot. (Even the play’s title alludes to the “Green Team” political faction of Mayors Adrian Fenty and Muriel Bowser. Their critics say this “Green Machine” puts business and development before community needs.) This one is a must-see.
Running time: 60 minutes.
Advisory: Recommended for ages 13 and up.
“Green Machine” runs through July 23, 2022 at Capital Fringe Home Rule, 3270 M Street NW, Washington 20007. For tickets and information, click here. To see the Capital Fringe performance schedule and purchase tickets ($15), go online.