News

Davidson Thespians Produce Dark Comedy Mr. Marmalade Feb. 19 - 23

by Robert Abare '13
Mr. Marmalade
Clarise Ballesteros ’16 and Amos McCandless ’14 tackle lead roles in the thought-provoking play Mr. Marmalade.

Davidson College invites the public to Mr. Marmalade, a darkly comedic play by Noah Haidle that tells the story of a little girl's delightful and disturbing imaginative responses to an abusive situation.

The college's Theatre Department will produce the play at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 19 - 22, and at 2 p.m., Feb. 23, in the Rupert T. Barber Theatre of the Cunningham Theatre Center. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 seniors, $7 faculty and staff, and $5 for students. The play is recommended for ages 13 and up. For more information call 704-894-2930.

Mr. Marmalade was premiered in 2005 by New York's Roundabout Theatre Company and starred Meryl Streep's daughter, Mamie Gummer. It tells the story of Lucy, a four-year-old girl in an unhappy home environment, and her sinister imaginary friend (the title character). Both Lucy's reality and fantasy dance the line between hilarity and darkness: Her only real friend is also the youngest suicide attempt in the history of New Jersey. The real and imaginary combine in Mr. Marmalade to produce comedy on a grand scale while also yielding nuanced commentary on what it means to be a "grown up" these days.

Senior theatre major Quincy Newkirk '14 is directing Mr. Marmalade in the department's annual student directorial slot. "This play is the capstone of my four years studying theatre at Davidson," Newkirk said fondly. "It gives me a great opportunity to apply what I've learned to a big production."

The cast includes Clarise Ballesteros '16, Cy Ferguson '16, Justin Strickland '14, Maggie Furlong '16, Dinah Decker '14, Karl Wold '15 and Amos McCandless '14.

Mr. Marmalade was selected by the Theatre Department from three plays submitted for consideration by Newkirk. "I wanted to direct Mr. Marmalade because it's fantastical and quirky, but also dark and thought-provoking," Newkirk said. "I like plays that combine elements from fantasy and everyday life-that break the walls of reality."

Newkirk hopes that Mr. Marmalade will have a reality-shattering effect on audiences. "Even while the audience is laughing at all the shocking things Lucy does on stage, I want them to stop and wonder, ‘What if my young son, daughter, niece or nephew was doing that?'" she explained. "I want them to consider how their own choices affect even the youngest and most innocent of those around them."

Newkirk concluded, "I've learned that theatre is a valuable tool for helping people internalize life lessons and objectively reconsider what they would do in a given situation."

Ballesteros, a psychology major from Grapevine, Texas, will play the lead role of Lucy. "As a psychology major, I enjoy theatre for the process of bringing characters to life and understanding the motivations behind their actions," she said.

Ballesteros also acknowledged that Mr. Marmalade poses many challenges for an actor. "It's a very heavy and dark play, but very funny at times," she said. "It's not every day you are asked to play a four-year-old with more alarming life experiences than most adults. Though it's dark and fantastical, this play is also very true," Ballesteros added. "Children are often exposed to dangerous things far too early, and we rarely notice."

Newkirk is preparing Ballesteros for her role by helping her imitate a child's mannerisms. "She sends me YouTube videos of cute kids to watch," said Ballesteros. "But my job is not entirely easy because Lucy also does many things we typically associate with adults."

Newkirk hopes Mr. Marmalade will be a stepping-stone to a career in stage direction. "I like producing plays that make people think, and if Mr. Marmalade goes well, I think I will pursue a career in directing," she said. "If not, I'll just be happy to run the lights."

The Theatre Department is confident Newkirk will write her own ticket–catch her work while you can.