DAVIDSON – The Davidson College theater department is preparing for the debut of “Mr. Marmalade,” a dark comedy play by Noah Haidle about a little girl’s imaginative responses to an abusive situation.

“Mr. Marmalade” tells the story of Lucy, a 4-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 while also yielding nuanced commentary on what it means to be a “grown up” these days.

Senior theater major Quincy Newkirk is directing “Mr. Marmalade.”

“This play is the capstone of my four years studying theater at Davidson,” Newkirk said. “It gives me a great opportunity to apply what I’ve learned to a big production.”

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

“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 the play 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.”

Clarise Ballesteros, a psychology major from Grapevine, Texas, will play the lead role of Lucy.

“As a psychology major, I enjoy theater for the process of bringing characters to life and understanding the motivations behind their actions,” she said.

Ballesteros acknowledged the play 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 4-year-old with more alarming life experiences than most adults.

“Though it’s dark and fantastical, this play is also very true. Children are often exposed to dangerous things far too early, and we rarely notice.”

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.”

 

Want to go? Davidson College’s theater department will present “Mr. Marmalade” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19-22, as well as 2 p.m. Feb. 23, in the Cunningham Theatre Center. Tickets cost $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors, $7 for faculty and staff and $5 for students. The play is recommended for ages 13 and up. Details: 704-894-2930.