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article imageReview: Tarragon Theatre's Mustard is a must-see Toronto play Special

By David Silverberg     Feb 12, 2016 in Entertainment
Toronto - By adding fantastical elements and excellent acting to the production, Tarragon Theatre's latest show Mustard is one of the most interesting pieces of Toronto theatre I've enjoyed in awhile.
The premise is quite simple: Thai is a teen girl living with her mother (Sarah Dodd), who was recently served divorce paper by her husband. Thing is, Thai has an imaginary friend Mustard who lives under her bed and hasn't changed since Thai first brought him to life as a young kid. What complicates the picture even further is that Mustard begins to appear to the mom, simultaneously intriguing and freaking her out.
What appears as a coming-of-age tale goes to the spec-fiction route when it's revealed Mustard is being pursued by villains of the world where imaginary creatures come from, the Boon Swallows. Mustard will do anything to remain with his owner, the girl who drew him in the first place, but Thai's maturity into a boy-hungry teen becomes the central conflict to the show, while also giving us a glimpse into a teen's cluttered headspace.
A scene from the Toronto play Mustard
A scene from the Toronto play Mustard
Courtesy Tarragon Theatre
The play could've remained solid without bringing in that fantastical storyline of Mustard escaping a torturous fate by keeping away from the Boon Swallows. But the ominous personality those villains bring to the play provide an urgency that might not have been there otherwise, while also adding a dose of dark humour to Mustard.
What makes Mustard so compelling is how it's such an entertaining and intelligent show. I barely noticed the 90 minutes were up when the final scene darkened. Kat Sandler's script is very tight and well-paced, while never lagging with too much exposition. And the acting propels this show to the next level: kudos to Rebecca Liddiard for showing emotional range in her portrayal as Thai, and a big hat-tip to Dodd for perfectly capturing the look of an exasperated mom who is up to her neck in parent-daughter drama. Sometimes, just a glance from Dodd can speak novels about what she's thinking.
A scene from the Toronto play Mustard
A scene from the Toronto play Mustard
Courtesy Tarragon Theatre
Tarragon Theatre has a long pedigree of staging smart and intriguing productions, and Mustard is another winner that is bound to entertain Toronto theatre lovers with its balanced mix of humour, insightful intelligence and strong acting.
Mustard runs until March 13 at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, 30 Bridgeman Avenue
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