“Mr. Marmalade” is a sick, twisted, little puppy of a play.
And if you have a spark of dark humor in you, this comedy will find it, fan it and make it flame.
Staged by Outre Theatre Company in Boca Raton, with held-tight direction by Skye Whitcomb, the comedy with blacker-than-black laughs centers on a dysfunctional relationship between 4-year-old Lucy (Laura Ruchala) and her imaginary friend, a coke-sniffing, foul-mouthed workaholic named Mr. Marmalade (Jim Gibbons).
Left alone in her stylish New Jersey home, Lucy pastes together what’s she’s seen on TV with what she’s observed from her mother, Sookie (Cindy Thagard), and her babysitter, Emily (Brianna Mackey), to form a seriously adult-content-filled escape. When she plays “house” or “doctor,” it is funny and disturbing simultaneously — picture the victimization angst of a Lifetime movie superimposed over the operating-room drama of “Grey’s Anatomy” and you just about got it.
Even when she gets a real pal to play with — Emily’s boyfriend (Giordan Diaz) dumps his 5-year-old stepbrother, Larry (Alvaro D’Amico), on Lucy — the tot turns out to be the youngest suicide victim in the history of New Jersey. Lucy’s healthiest relationship is with Mr. Marmalade’s much-abused assistant, Bradley (Christopher Mitchell). All the parts are played by adult actors.
However, the farce slips off of us because Noah Haidle’s script has the kids go from 4 to 40 just to service his punch lines. Nevertheless, equal parts elegy for childhood innocence and razor-toothed cultural commentary, this production of “Mr. Marmalade” is delicious … for the entire 90 minutes (with a 15-minute intermission).
“Mr. Marmalade” is running through April 13 at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, in Boca Raton. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $30 ($25 for seniors and $20 for students). Call 954-300-2149 or go to OutreTheatreCompany.com.