by Lynn on January 5, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r: Anand Rajaram, Rebecca Liddiard;
photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

At the Tarragon Theatre, Extraspace Toronto, Ont.
Written by Kat Sandler
Directed by Ashlie Corcoran
Set and costumes by Michael Gianfrancesco
Sound by Christopher Stanton
Lighting designer, Graeme S. Thomson
Co-lighting designer, Nick Andison
Cast: Conrad Coates
Sarah Dodd
Rebecca Liddiard
Tony Nappo
Anand Rajaram
Travis Seetoo

A lively comedy about growing up and leaving the comfort zone.  This  is not about condiments.

 The Story. Mustard  is a very funny comedy with a deeper sensibility about a floppy doll dressed in yellow pants and pockets of various colours, (hence his name of “Mustard”).

The doll was first given to Thai when she was a baby to try and stop her from crying.  As Thai grew up she would talk to Mustard and the doll took on a life of its own—he would talk to Thai.

Thai is now a lively, single-minded 16 year old. Her family life is in crisis and she acts out violently—she tends to punch people in the face.  Her father has left and wants a divorce.  Her mother, Sadie, is depressed, drinks and takes drugs. She’s not much help to Thai. Thai goes to Mustard for advice and solace.

Mustard tries his best to help her, but he has his own problems.  It seems there is a statute of limitations on how long a boon—the technical name for imaginary friends—can stick around and now the ‘boon-goons’ are warning Mustard he has to go. What to do? A dilemma.

The Production. Mustard  first played at the Tarragon in 2016 and the production was dandy thanks to Ashlie Corcoran’s energetic direction and the sterling cast This revival, with two cast changes, is up to the mark as well.

Anand Rajaram plays Mustard with a wide-eyed curiosity and a serious and sensitive demeanour. Mustard is devoted to Thai and wants only the best for her. But then there is Thai’s wounded mother Sadie, who drinks and takes pills way too often. Sadie is played with bitter sarcasm and a quick wit by Sarah Dodd. Dodd makes it all seem effortless. Every moment in her performance informs the many layers of this character.

As in 2016, the real discover is Rebecca Liddiard as Thai. Precocious, impatient to grow up, angry her father is not there, angry her mother is there but absent in a sense because her mother is so out of it with depression.

There is a special chemistry with Liddiard and Rajaram as there is with Thai and Mustard.  They egg each other on. Sparks fly. Funny and touching.

Comment. So for all its loopy humour, and there’s plenty of it–Kat Sandler writes such incongruous, funny dialogue–there is a serious inner core to the show. Sandler writes about growing up, maturing, finding your own voice and your own happiness without the crutch of a childhood friend that always seems to solve the problems.  There’s a sweetness to the play with Sandler’s typical off-the-wall-loopiness in story-telling.

Presented by Tarragon Theatre

Opened: Jan. 4, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 28, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

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