Joliet’s Latitude 41 stages ‘Mr. Marmalade’
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media January 31, 2013 9:40AM
♦ Feb. 1-10
♦ Bicentennial Park Theater, 201 W. Jefferson St., Joliet
♦ Tickets, $5
Updated: January 31, 2013 11:59AM
A new theater group in Joliet has picked a very dark comedy for its first outing.
Latitude 41 presents “Mr. Marmalade” Feb. 1 to 10. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 2, 8, 9 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 3 and 10 at the indoor theater at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park in Joliet.
Last year, Latitude 41 co-produced “Oklahoma” and “Transylvania General.” This is its maiden theatrical voyage. “Mr. Marmalade” is written by Noah Haidle and is directed by Al Pindell of Shorewood.
“The interesting thing that struck me about this show is that unlike most black comedies, where it seems like everybody dies at the end, I think this ends on a pretty uplifting note, and that’s a little unusual for something that has a tag of black comedy,” he said. “I think that works for a show whose protagonist is a four-year-old girl.”
That’s right — a toddler (played by Erin Schneider) is the main character. It’s the story of Lucy, a neglected, precocious four year-old with an imaginary friend named Mr. Marmalade (Jeff Matson). Trouble ensues when Mr. Marmalade, a stressed-out businessman, rarely has time for Lucy and her tea parties any longer.
When Lucy befriends a troubled boy her own age, it threatens to unravel Mr. Marmalade’s world in dangerous ways.
“I think the audience is rooting for Lucy throughout the show. They want her to succeed and make a connection to another person,” he said. “She’s an appealing character. She’s smart and funny and she’s in some not-great circumstances. But the show ends on a positive note.”
He was attracted to the script because it had all the elements he was looking for — humor, intelligence, even sadness. He thinks that audiences will connect with Lucy and the adults around her.
“It’s pretty wildly funny at times. It’s very surreal,” he said. “Many of the characters come directly out of Lucy’s imagination. Sometimes they parrot back the very things the real people in her life say, but the context is a little off, and that’s where the humor comes in. Children are very perceptive.”
There are six actors in the cast, with two actors playing multiple characters. Additionally, the actress playing Lucy is an adult, in case you wanted to call child protective services.
“Certainly you would never cast a child in these parts. The subject matter is not appropriate for a child actor,” he said. “And certainly it allows you to get away with much more content-wise and bring some of the humor. Sometimes it is just fun to see an adult act like a four-year-old. That’s where that contradiction and the comedy come in.”
The show is fast-paced and rated R for language and content, he said.
“It doesn’t linger very long. You’re too busy laughing to worry about what’s next,” he said. “As a production, we’re telling the audience, ‘It’s OK, these situations are utterly ridiculous.’ We get it. We know, and we love it for that.”