Green Machine at Capital Fringe Festival 2022
Green Machine at Capital Fringe Festival 2022; Courtesy of Fringe Fest

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Medical marijuana is a well-regulated industry in the District, but the trade of recreational weed is a bit looser. Adults over 21 can possess and use cannabis, and though some shops exist, recreational sales are technically illegal. Instead customers receive a cannabis gift along with their purchase of a candle, a T-shirt, or organic juice boxes in the case of the fictitious Mount Pleasant pop-up shop that lends its name to Jim McNeill’s new play, Green Machine. Ably directed by Catherine Aselford, Green Machine is the first show from Urban Idyll Theater, a new company dedicated to stories from D.C. and Baltimore.

The shop’s business partners are Leon (James Lewis), the son of a Baptist preacher who owns the storefront where they sell juice; Corbin (played the night I attended by understudy Stephen Patrick Martin), an old hippie with a bad cough, and Mike (Nick DePinto), a lifelong stoner from a monied family, convinced that after previous failures this is the venture that will go big. All Mike has to do is cut a deal with a Colorado-based distributor who can provide strains not available through local dispensaries.

Mike has brought in his 19-year-old nephew Ignatius (Anthony De Souza), a Catholic University student about to start his sophomore year, to assist. Ignatius’ attorney mother, Mary (Shari L. Lewis), is concerned about what sort of business her brother has gotten himself into and whether it’s a good place for her son to be working. Ignatius is old enough to sell juice, but he’s too young to handle gifts. Finally there is Officer Taylor (Natalie Graves Tucker), a cop newly assigned to Mount Pleasant, who is still introducing herself to local businesses while attempting to suss out potential problems.

Against the wheeling and dealing of the marijuana trade, Green Machine tells the story of how the neighborhood Corbin and Leon remember as being affordable and diverse is disintegrating under the pressure of gentrification.

McNeill’s characters often guess what someone else will do next. It’s a clever bit of misdirection that keeps the audience guessing as well, but as the story reaches its conclusion, it seems logical in retrospect.

The set is simple: a card table and some folding chairs with baggies and juice boxes on trays. Much of the visual interest comes from Mike’s vintage T-shirts depicting D.C.’s music history. Adding to the local feel is the prominent use of The Evens’ “Mt. Pleasant Isn’t” as the show’s signature song, as well as snippets from other Evens songs used for scene transitions. The play’s strength is its sense of a neighborhood in transition and how the characters attempt to adapt and make some green along the way.

Green Machine, as part of the Capital Fringe Festival, runs through July 23 at Home Rule (formerly Washington Sports Club), 3270 M St. NW. $15.