Mr. Marmalade: dark and twisted

Amy Keating in Mr Marmalde, photo credit: Simon Bloom

An early highlight of the Summerworks Festival, Mr. Marmalde is a dark and twisted comedy from playwright Noah Haidle is brought to life in a delightful and imaginative production by director Mitchell Cushman and a vibrant cast featuring the always reliable David Storch.

Precocious kindergartener Lucy (Amy Keating) has an imaginary friend. However unlike most other kids her age, her fantasy companion is a short-fused coke snorting Bay Street type named Mr. Marmalade (Storch). Lucy’s already tenuous relationship with the time-strapped Mr. Marmalade is pushed to the limit when he discovered that she has become very friendly with a four year old suicidal kleptomaniac named Larry (Ishai Buchbinder), and that her dedication to their imaginary relationship is wavering. Lucy’s surreal dilemma pushes her into making some disturbing and very adult decisions that, given the premise of the play, are funny and chilling in equal measure.

Cushman’s production is set in a true-to-life kindergarten class in St. Mary’s Catholic School, which not only provides bright colourful props and surroundings, but also ample room for lively blocking and creative interaction between characters using the indoor and outdoor spaces. Audience members are invited to sit in itty-biddy chairs normally reserved for the classroom’s pint-sized students, and to suck on juice boxes placed on the room’s shin high tables. They are small touches, but whimsical ones that make for a memorable experience.

The cast is fresh-faced but by no means amateurish; Storch and Keating give surprisingly earnest performances given the absurd nature of the script, and Ishai Buchbinder uses his delightful awkwardness to full effect as the impish Larry. Jason Chinn also deserves a nod for stealing a couple of scenes in his smaller roles.

By Justin Haigh