Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mr. Marmalade"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark

"Mr. Marmalade"

by Noah Haidle
Directed by Shawn LaCount

Set Design by Christina Todesco
Lighting Design & Master Electrician Caleb Magoon
Sound Design & Composer Nathan Leigh
Costume Design by Joy Adams
Fight Choreographer Adam McLean
Fight Captain Mark Abby VanDerzee
Dramaturg Julie Levene
Assistant Stage Manager J. Jacob Krause
Stage Manager Amy Weissenstein

Lucy.....................Rachel Hunt
Mr. Marmalade.............John Kuntz
Sookie/Emily...Amanda Good Hennessey
Bradley..........Daniel Berger-Jones
George/Man.......Mark Abby VanDerzee
Larry....................Greg Maraio
Cactus/Waiter............Danny Balel
Sunflower/Waiter........Tory Bullock

Noah Haidle's play begins with a precocious, lonely four-year-old belly-down on the rug playing with dolls, and gets bigger and bigger every moment. Since hardly anyone pays much attention to Lucy (energetically and brilliantly played by Rachel Hunt) --- except Larry (Greg Maraio, who matches her energy), but he's only five --- she fills her world with imagined surrogates of surprisingly detailed worldly sophistication, as well as heartbreaking reality. Bouncing on her toes from idea to idea, visibly growing beyond her years, she is surrounded by a flawless cast directed by Shawn LaCount in a production that grows and deepens with her. In fact, this may be at long last the production for which COMPANY ONE gets all the attention and recognition it has always deserved.

One reason Company One will be noticed is that they are doing a nearly month-long run (13 July through 11 August) in a sparse summer theatrical season; but a better reason is the presence in the title role of Boston's theatrical vesuvius John Kuntz. (He's back from acting in his own play down in New York.) The great news, though, is that this always exciting actor is just another strong, interesting performer in a cast to die for.

"We were divorced when I was two," Lucy matter-of-factly explains to someone at one point, and Amanda Good Hennessey as her mom leaves for a full-time office job asking her kid to "hold the fort" for half an hour till the baby-sitter arrives --- then she reappears (significantly, I think) as the baby-sitter, who divides her interest between her t-v shows and a tryst with her boy-friend. (Mark Abby VanDerzee also doubles, shedding his teen-age hormones to re-appear as mom's nervous co-worker home with her for a one-night stand.)

But this teen-age minor character comes accompanied by his five-year-old brother Larry. Greg Maraio and Rachel Hunt spend much of the play meeting, bonding, fighting, sharing secrets and insights (and imaginary playmates), playing House (and Doctor), and bouncing together, both metaphorically and physically. Larry is proud of being the youngest suicide attemptee in New Jersey* and His imaginary companions are a cactus (Danny Balel) and a Daisy (Tory Bullock), but eventually he admits that his day with Lucy has been the first time he's ever been happy. [Yeah; so much for the superficial laugh-riot schtick, right?]

Still, it's John Kuntz' Mr. Marmalade that defines Lucy's intelligence, inventiveness, honesty, and her state of mind. He's a father-figure businessman in a charcoal suit who carries a child-sized tea-set in his attache-case, then her beer-swilling angry husband-figure with a channel-changer in his hand yelling "Shut that kid up!" in their Playing-House game, then the contrite 12-step repentent begging forgiveness. (Where do four-year-olds get their world-views?)

Mr. Marmalade is so rich he has a tuxedo'd flunky (Daniel Berger-Jones) whom he beats for incompetence despite Bradley's efficiency and affection toward Lucy. In fact, it's a testament to the playwright's urge toward humanity that despite sprees of mayhem and betrayal, Lucy's world bestows believable happy-endings to just about everyone.

But it's no surprise that every detail of this show is perfectly in place. That's been the Company One trademark. Christina Todesco's set has sudden, delightful surprises, Caleb Magoon's lighting opens it up, or pulls it in for close-ups, Nathan Leigh's music underscores every mood, and Adam McLean's fights lend their own sharp surprises to the mix. This isn't the first show that shows the world how no-compromise excellent this company's work always is. But it may be, finally, the one everybody notices.

( a k a larry stark)
* Don't laugh. A lot of Very Intelligent people are FROM New Jersey (like me)!

"Mr. Marmalade" (13 July - 11 August)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1 (617)277-7032

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide