BWW Reviews: MR. MARMALADE - Irreverent Hilarity at its Finest
After attending Noah Haidle's MR. MARMALADE, I can't recall the last time I saw something so delightfully irreverent and hilarious, and I honestly loved every moment of it. Leaving Country Playhouse, my sides truly ached from laughing so much. This dark comedy is reminiscent of the 1991 film Drop Dead Fred to an extent, but tells a much darker tale that allows the audience to laugh at current social issues that in any other context would not be funny.
Scott McWhirter adroitly directs an excellent cast in Country Playhouse's MR. MARMALADE, which is playing in their Blackbox theatre. Every action and line is delivered in a way to at least garner a roll of the eye or a chuckle. Yet, under Scott McWhirter's direction, there is not a single large laugh moment that is missed or rushed, leaving the audience in stitches and rolling with guffaws of laughter repeatedly. The most impressive feat of his directing is how committed to the roles each actor is, never breaking character and delivering the irrationally hilarious lines with the utmost sensible conviction, as if there would be no other logical thought to portray.
As the veracious and seemingly wise-beyond-her-years four year old Lucy, Monica Lynn Passley is superb. Her performance is so thorough that she perfectly adopts the voice and inflections of a toddler. This coupled with her diminutive stature (especially when standing next to Taylor Biltoft's Mr. Marmalade) makes it easy to convince the audience that Monica Lynn Passley's Lucy is really a 4-year-old. Moreover, Monica Lynn Passley is gifted with natural comedic timing and never misuses an opportunity to reduce the audience to laughter.
Taylor Biltoft's Mr. Maramlade might just be the worst imaginary friend to ever be presented to an audience, which makes his performance perfect. Easily exuding the droll, douche bag qualities of the stereotypical career-driven, testosterone-laden despicable male, Taylor Biltoft is superb in being unlikable and untrustworthy. He expertly delivers witty remarks and physical comedy, shining when he has to launch himself backward off a coffee table and when his briefcase opens unexpectedly.
Suicidal five-year-old, Larry, as portrayed by Louis Crespo, is awkwardly adorable. Whether laughing at his suicide attempts or the meal he prepares for Lucy, Louis Crespo has a great charisma that is used to draw out peals of laughter from the audience. Moreover, in every way, Louis Crespo embodies and portrays Larry as a foil to Mr. Marmalade, winning the audience over immediately and keeping them rooting for him throughout the show.
Danny Seibert's Bradley was my absolute favorite character portrayal in the show. He is the imaginary friend you'd want your kids to have, as long as he isn't explaining the abuses he suffers at the hands of Mr. Marmalade to them. Overall, Danny Seibert's Bradley is convincingly loveable and kind and brought me to tears laughing when he sings. Like Louis Crespo, he completely assumes a characterization that is in polar opposition to that of Taylor Biltoft's Mr. Marmalade and uses that to his advantage.
The rest of the cast do marvelous jobs in their respective roles and display some acute attention to detail that really aides in the audience's ability to get lost in the moment. I appreciated that Scott McWhirter as George has the faintest trickle of blood under his nose, visually completing the drug-addled, teenage dirt bag character for the audience. Laura Chapman as Sookie and French Waiter #1, Keshia Lovewell as Emily and French Waiter #2, Beverly Hutchison as Cactus, and Scott McWhirter as George, Sunflower, and A Man make use of their time on stage, ensuring the audience's suspension of belief and fueling laugh-out-loud moments along the way.
Keisha Lovewell and Scott McWhirter's set design is fantastic. Using a cutaway door in the wall for the entrances and exits of the imaginary friends is inspired. That small touch is well employed and truly adds to the show. Furthermore, the chalk drawings and painted pictures supplied by Rook Laborde and Kaydence Lovewell are fantastic additions.
When doing a show set in current times, costuming should never be too difficult, but Deborah Blake, along with the cast and crew, has done a great job. I appreciated the attention to details across the characters. For example, Emily's My Chemical Romance t-shirt and purple leggings with purple socks, Bradley's torn tie, and Larry's uneven socks were all great details to include and helped to complete the show.
Leave the kids and those who are easily offended at home, and make the trip to Country Playhouse to see Noah Haidle's MR. MARMALADE. This comedy is ruthless and stellar all at the same time. And though it may not be as sugary sweet as the junk foods devoured on stage, it is sure to kick your endorphins into action and will leave you smiling and laughing all night.
MR. MARMALADE runs at Country Playhouse's Blackbox theatre until August 25, 2012. For more information and tickets, visit www.countryplayhouse.org or call (713) 467 – 4497. The Country Playhouse website has been experiencing some technical difficulties recently, so you can also obtain information from www.facebook.com/pages/The-Country-Playhouse/102504436569.
The poster is by Scott McWhirter and Rook Laborde. Photos are by Lee Ray Photography.
Monica Lynn Passley as Lucy
Danny Seibert as Bradley and Monica Lynn Passley as Lucy
Louis Crespo as Larry and Monica Lynn Passley as Lucy
Laura Chapman as Sookie and Monica Lynn Passley as Lucy
Keshia Lovewell as Emily and Scott McWhirter as George