Jeff and Lisel Forst star in the Capital Theatre's upcoming production of Cop Shop / Grow Op.

Stoner comedy defies conventions

Back a single night performance on October 25, Cop Shop / Grow Op stars Jeff and Lisel Forst at the Capital Theatre.

Who would be audacious (or foolish) enough to start a marijuana grow op next door to a police station?

That was the question driving Nelsonite Jeff Forst when he originally wrote Cop Shop / Grow Op, an award-winning monologue that has evolved into a full-length, four-character stoner comedy. This year Forst is bringing it to the Capitol Theatre with his wife Lisel for a one-night performance on Saturday, October 25.

And though audiences can expect Cheech and Chong-inspired bong comedy, no shortage of fake onstage weed-smoking and flamboyant performances from Jeff and Lisel, who play two roles each, there’s also a serious element to their production.

“It’s asking big questions. It’s not just being a comedy. It’s asking what is the legality here? How do we feel about this? We’re all just people. It’s just a plant. Love is love. It asks big questions of the audience that way,” said Lisel.

Jeff was originally inspired to write the play after reading a headline about a drug bust next door to an RCMP station in Prince George. It jumped out to him right away as a thrilling premise for a romantic comedy.

He eventually invented Hannah, a frustrated artist who is forced to grow marijuana to get by.

“Hannah is not your classic stoner. She’s doing it for ulterior motives. The harsh reality is she has to make money and that’s more like the typical grower situation in this community. Most people do it out of necessity. In a fairly serious way, marijuana is a big deal here.”

Jeff said it’s been fascinating to watch perceptions of marijuana change since he originally wrote the play. He said the legalized industries being established in Washington and Colorado are both exciting for and threatening to the local pot industry, and he hopes his play will encourage continued dialogue around the controversial subject.

“An old way of life may disappear with the supposed progressive changes,” he said.

Lisel echoed the sentiment, adding that legalization isn’t necessarily the answer for people like Hannah.

“Just because you come up with one solution doesn’t mean it’s the best solution. For Hannah, she’s like ‘I’m still getting busted. You’re not going to give me a job or help me supplement my art. I don’t get to be artist.’ It doesn’t work for her.”

Jeff said people in the Kootenays will have no trouble empathizing with Hannah’s predicament. In the play she meets a police officer named Dante who bumbles into her life and then has to decide whether or not to bust her.

They’re joined on stage by Dante’s superior, Sarge Sue, and a drug dealer character Cola. At times all four characters are technically on stage at once, which has necessitated some hurried and innovative costume changes.

But Lisel said they have a headstart on the rehearsal process.

“We get to bypass so much nerves. Normally its like ‘nice to meet you, we’ll have to kiss later’. We can just go, we’re past all that. We can work deeply and bring our performance to a good, fast-paced, high level.”

The play isn’t overtly pro or anti-legalization, and whenever possible eschews politics. But Lisel said the subject matter is hugely relevant to this community.

“The slash in the title is meant to represent the fence between the cop cop and the grow op. And those two perspectives are very balanced. You can’t go one way entirely and reflect Nelson.”

Jeff said he wanted to capture the moral struggle on either side of the law.

“Anybody who comes here is like ‘oh, can I take photos of the hippies? Or the head shops? Where’s all the weed?’ But the longer you stay here you realize the silent majority is quite conservative and way more shares the philosophy of the cops and Stephen Harper.”

Lisel agreed.

“We’re representing both sides. We’re not trying to push an agenda. We’re trying to get both sides into the theatre to talk about this through comedy and love and see what we can strike up,” she said.

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