M ary Hamilton, Drama instructor at Mount Baker Secondary School, and a new group of student performers, set out this fall to create a dramatic piece from scratch — chasing ideas, creating characters, and putting them all together. Buster Keaton, the great physical comedian from Hollywood’s silent era, was to be their guiding spirit.
The result is “The Optimist,” a hallucinatory work of art where silent film meets the Theatre of the Absurd. It opens tonight, Thursday, Nov. 26, at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook.
Buster Keaton is present — he in fact is to serve as our guide, until he gets distracted by ongoing combat with his rival for love. But “The Optimist” could also a great homage to the 1920s Paris of the surrealists. I could swear Jean Cocteau and Luis Bunuel are among the characters — and certainly Edith Piaf makes an appearance. And the backing music to this “silent film” — created by a band of various members of the cast — is anchored by an accordion playing in the Parisian style.
The actors — most of them new to the Wild Drama stage — have created a dreamscape city peopled by inhabitants from all walks of life, some of them swashbuckling and larger than life, some of them struggling loneliness and frustration. “The Optimist” is a world of in-between, like being stuck in a dream that suddenly explodes into conflict, then settles back into stillness and reverie. But not for long.
“The Optimist,” created by the performers themselves, is a colourful and original piece that theatre that carries on with the bold adventures Wild Drama has taken on in recent years. It features Lukas Pump, Nathaniel Ralph, Jordyn Walker, Cameron Sperling, Laura Louw, Hayley Anderson, Presley Armstrong, Emily Orza, Geneve Miller, Manon Metzger, Michaela Eckersley, Jagur Chung, Brea McCormack, Kelsey Thompson, Claudia Royo, Amina Kabe, Emily Penner, Fabian Ernst, Jan Janssen, Tace Bradwell and Geoffrey Drought. Mary Hamilton is Director, Frank Hackett is Acting Coach/Fight Director and Dave Hill designed the set.
“The Optimist” runs Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 26-28, at the Key City Theatre.