Starring Amy Keating, Philip Riccio, Ishai Buchbinder. Written by Noah Haidle. Directed by Mitchell Cushman. Holy Family School (Parkdale), to July 28.
Mr. Marmalade concerns a four-year-old girl and her imaginary friend, but it’s definitely not for kids. In American playwright Noah Haidle’s whimsical black comedy, little Lucy (Amy Keating) has conjured up a fantasy playmate in the form of an abusive, coke-snorting, emotionally unavailable workaholic.
The egregious Mr. Marmalade (Philip Riccio) is a reflection of the ugly real world Lucy lives in, where men are jerks and insecure women are desperate to please them. And Lucy isn’t the only tot suffering the consequences of adult dysfunction. Her real-life pal Larry (Ishai Buchbinder) is a budding delinquent who, at five, has already attempted suicide.
Haidle’s play, which premiered Off-Broadway in 2005, is sometimes poignant, but it’s also facile and gimmicky. That clearly hasn’t fazed Outside the March, who’ve taken the gimmick and run with it. In this remount of the company’s 2011 SummerWorks hit, director Mitchell Cushman stages the action in a real kindergarten classroom, where the audience sips on juice boxes and sits on tiny chairs. It effectively brings us down to a toddler’s level, as do the absorbing performances from Keating, playing a precocious but pathetic Lucy, and Buchbinder, whose sweetly geeky Larry makes you want to both laugh and cry. At times you forget these are adult actors playing children. As the smooth Marmalade, Riccio is like a Ken doll with a snowball for a heart. A twinkly Julie Tepperman, doing her best kindergarten-teacher impression, serves as our guide, but her chipper narration is laced with irony. This is a tale to make your inner child squirm.—Martin Morrow