By KAREN SHADE, 03/20/2008
Haidle's 'Mr. Marmalade' plays in the dark
Starr Hardgrove is a nice guy, so don’t let his Mr. Marmalade fool you.
"Everybody likes to play a villain at some times," said the actor who plays the title character of Evandrake Productions" "Mr. Marmalade," opening Thursday at the Nightingale Theater.
"For me, it's just been — and Cassie (Hollis, the director) has been helping me out with this — getting to the meat of the character and figuring out why he’s doing it."
Figuring out why someone would rough up his personal assistant, why he would purposely neglect his friend, and why he would relish his cruel behavior.
That's not even the scary part- Mr. Marmalade exists only in the head of 4- year-old Lucy, played by Erin Thompson ("Lion in Winter"), in the acerbic surreality of playwright Noah Haidle. The play is as much a comment on what it is to grow up in the American culture of today as it is a coming- of-age piece, Hardgrove said of the mature dark comedy.
The play is the second outing for Evandrake Productions, a group he founded with Hollis and John R. Clark.
Mr. Marmalade is a different kind of character for Hardgrove, who has played all-around good guys in two shows this season — Heller Theatre's "Rocket Man" and Evandrake's staging of "Proof."
He isn't, however, unfamiliar to the premise of "Mr. Marmalade." In fact, he knows something of what it's like to be a Lucy, an only child from a single-parent home given to imagination.
Hardgrove admits to having had a few imaginary friends as a child himself, though they were considerably more benevolent.
"They were more like imaginary, vague people," Hardgrove said.
"If I wanted like a baker, or something like that, I would talk to a baker... just friends that I would talk to and try to keep myself busy," he said.
No one he ever dreamed up, however, is like Mr. Marmalade, who has a fixation for suits, sex toys and cocaine, and who alternates between compassion and quiet rage without warning.
"One of the reasons I'm still an actor is because I love playing with imagination and the idea of creating worlds that are not necessarily there," Hardgrove said.