Mustard revisited: when does a play become a classic? - Drew Rowsome - MyGayToronto
Mustard revisited: when does a play become a classic? 08 January 2018
by Drew Rowsome - Production photos by Cylla von Tiedemann
Mustard is an indispensable condiment, Mustard is an unmissable classic.
Before going any further, please take a minute to pop over to my February 2016 review of the first production of Mustard which won a Dora Award for Outstanding New Production. It all still holds true, Mustard is about as entertaining as an evening of theatre should be and now it also marks a historically significant step forward, there have been more since, for playwright Kat Sandler (Late Night, Bright Lights, Liver, Cockfight, Sucker, Delicacy, Rock). Even better is the news that Sandler is back at Tarragon as a writer in residence where she will create yet another play for our future delectation.
The inventive built-for-farce set is the same and the performances have deepened: Rebecca Liddiard navigates the whiplash turns of a character who is deep in crisis and could be distasteful if not for vulnerability; Sarah Dodd is a towering force of fragile nature; and Tony Nappo is comically scary. Anand Rajaram absolutely astonishes by shifting extreme emotions while never losing a light-footed comic tone. He won a deserved Dora for the role, but his subtle tears at the end of this production are heartbreaking in a way that rips way deeper than a comedy usually aspires to, let alone achieves.
Perhaps that is the main difference between the productions, this Mustard is darker with an emphasis on the pathos. The comedy and copious one-liners are still there, but now take on a less rat-a-tat rhythm and sneak up to dig in and linger. The cast speeds along, occasionally layering their lines, and the realism of their interactions gives the fantastical plot a solid grounding. And that is the revelation of this remount, Mustard is a very cleverly constructed play. In a fast-paced 90 minutes, an entire mythology is constructed without an extraneous moment of exposition or smudge of confusion or doubt. Director Ashlie Corcoran (Kiss, The Gay Heritage Project) has faith in the sci-fi/fairy tale epic environment and doesn't need to emphasize the linking clues and symbols. It took great skill to make something so difficult seem so simple and true.
New to the cast, and blending in familiarly, are Conrad Coates and Travis Seetoo. Coates as one of the Waiting for Godotian enforcers is a more menacing presence than the previous production, and his resonant rich voice adds immeasurably to the smoothly ominious character. Seetoo is perhaps too attractive, though his bared butt is a definitive highlight, for a disparaged character, but he captures a manchild teetering on the verge of facing adult responsibilities and realities perfectly, providing a counterpoint to the same dilemma that the other characters, and Sandler and the audience, are all wrestling with.
For those who didn't see Mustard the first, probably the first of many, time around now is a great chance. For those who did, I enjoyed it just as much the second time around and appreciated the greater emotional depth from the darker tone counteracting the occasional swerves into whimsy. I have no idea what process a play goes through to become a beloved or enshrined classic - high school productions? intellectual discussion? audience demand? cult fervour? a horror sequel on the fate of Duck-Duck? - but more takes on Mustard will be as intriguing and welcome as wherever Sandler's restless imagination takes her, and us, next.