Vancouver actor Jay Clift isn’t too worried about being typecast, but he does admit to having an attraction to dark comedies as evidenced by previous roles and his latest undertaking as the imaginary adult friend to a four-year old girl in Mr. Marmalade.
“I think I have a natural inclination towards the dark; it is my disposition,” confesses Clift who has recently been seen in Tracy Lett’s pitch black comedy Bug and a somewhat lighter shade of dark in Frank McGuinness’s Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me. “I work every day to get myself to a baseline where I am happy. I eat happy, I take care of my body, do certain things to be stable and happy, but I have a natural inclination to the dark and it is easier for me to play.”
But easier doesn’t mean that it is any less taxing as an actor, or as a man.
“With Bug it really got to me after a while,” recalls Clift. “It is definitely a balance. I enjoy doing comedies for the lightness, but artistically maybe the darker stuff is more satisfying.”
While Lett’s rundown motel in rural Oklahoma may be the ultimate in dark comedies, the absurdity of Mr. Marmalade helps to keep things on the brighter side of darkness as it tells its story of four-year old Lucy dealing with reality through the fantasy world she has created.
“You partake in Lucy’s fantasy world which involves a number of characters, but mostly through the character I play, Mr. Marmalade, her defacto boyfriend,” explains Clift. “She hasn’t really had a pleasant childhood and a lot of that is reflected in the relationships that she has with her imaginary friends.”
And while it all may sound a bit gloomy, Clift promises that it is also absurdly funny as he finds himself playing an adult through the mind of a four year old girl.
“It is a reflection of Lucy’s understanding of the world, so my character is limited by her understanding as a child,” he says. “But her imagination is so big and I can go very big with my choices, but still be limited by the reality of what I am doing.”
For Clift, getting into the mindset of how a four year old sees his world has come not only from playwright Noah Haidle’s text, but his own research from watching cartoons.
“You have a better understanding as to what captivates their attention and I use it as a tactic for Mr. Marmalade’s relationship with Lucy,” says Clift of his Saturday morning viewings.
Ultimately Clift sees Mr. Marmalade as an allegory for not wasting one’s childhood, something that he can relate to some degree.
“For me it is conflicting because being an actor growing up I lived in my own fantasy land,” he says. “I’d play out scenarios in mind, and still do that today and it brings me joy, but I know it is can also being used an escape from reality and pain. It is a cautionary tale about getting too wrapped in your fantasy world where you miss out on reality.”
Mr. Marmalade plays Little Mountain Gallery (195 East 26Ave) August 20-30. Visit Brown Paper Tickets for tickets and information.