Nothing imaginary about play’s power
Jay Clift and Christine Quintana from Mr. Marmalade. (BeattyOei Photography)
Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, I bet you’ve never had an imaginary friend like Mr. Marmalade – the vicious, neglectful, cocaine-addicted, fantasy companion to four-year-old Lucy.
Latchkey Co-op’s production of the darkly comic work, currently on stage through Aug. 30 at Little Mountain Gallery, features 24-year-old Christine Quintana as Lucy.
“[Mr. Marmalade] is dark and twisted and challenging, but it has a really pure heart,” explained the ebullient Quintana. Just back from a one-night-only performance on Gabriola Island, she described audience reaction to playwright Noah Haidle’s coming-of-age story, directed by the award-winning Chelsea Haberlin.
“We heard a lot of initial laughter and then people feeling weird about having laughed at [what they were experiencing] – we had one woman yelling stuff out in support of Lucy, which was intense. It was an emotional finish for sure.”
The Los Angeles-born Quintana caught the acting bug early. At nine she was “thrown into the fire” when her school choir was selected for a professional production of The Child, the Book and the Broomstick at The Cultch.
“For me, it was about the community and being with everyone for many hours a day — working with a team and the wonderful actors. The experience immediately took me in and I was done for.”
Mr. Marmalade has surprising complexity, an unsettling premise, and — at the work’s core — the ways in which dysfunction can impact a child’s young mind.
“Real life can suck,” she said. “A lot of things can get in your way – a lot of things that will break you down bit by bit. This play is about finding the tools within yourself to protect that little heart – that little four0year-old heart that we all have.”
Quintana may not have grown up with an imaginary friend, but as an only child – she moved to Vancouver when she was four – she professed to concocting colourful, make-believe worlds.
“I definitely had a vivid imagination at Lucy’s age. Your imagination is a very valuable tool – especially as an actor. But adult life does its best to beat it out of you. It’s a constant art to try and keep it alive.”
But keep it alive, she does. Quintana, who professes to “live off coffee and dreams,” has no shortage of creative works on the go.
“I was an actor first and always will be. That’s where my training is and that’s what I really love to do,” she said. “But increasingly my work as a playwright is becoming really significant to me – especially with two premieres this season.” These are Selfie, commissioned by Théâtre la Seizième and STATIONARY: a recession-era musical.
Before we wrap up our call, I ask the impressive Quintana how she navigates the often cutthroat theatre industry.
“You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe that you have something that is necessary – something that needs to be heard and that can only be shared by you.”
Tickets: brownpapertickets.com or phone 1-800-838-3006.
Laura Murray trained in classical ballet for more than 18 years and is the principal of Laura Murray PR, an arts and culture marketing agency in Vancouver.