Theatre In Focus: The Pessimist
Zombies in small town Ontario!
The Pessimist, which recently opened at Tarragon Theatre, begins with a speech about the true meaning and character of a zombie: an undead being devoid of emotion that wanders through the world searching for meaning and... brains. Suddenly a shriek, and a zombie-like creature in half light is revealed... and then a dinner table with a frank discussion in a dining hall and kitchen surrounded by haystacks climbing up the back of the theatre for ten to fifteen feet. My attention you do have.
The play is an eighty minute serio-comedy that, though at times could appear very quirky, is also levelled and deepened by discovery. Five characters; a dying playwright, his retired actor wife ("actors may retire but they'll never shut off"), an overly poetic playwright, a would be starlet and of all things, and a politician, are in a home in the country trying to find the muse for their passions.
The play has many funny moments and the actors, though relishing the enjoyment of the comedy don't play it up, which would seem the easiest route to take. "You can't play the funny", actor Kristina Nicoll says. "You have to be as simple as possible, it's all in the 'slightest of details' work...".
At less than an hour and a half, it feels even faster than that, stopping only to revel in moments as the characters play the play within the play. Its morbid tone and morose theme doesn't bog down the script as it is kept alive through witty dialogue and sharp deliveries. It's the kind of play anyone can enjoy and, as Tarragon is known as the playwrights theatre, it also serves up a well crafted script with many deep moments buried within the folly.
The Pessimist runs until May 27th at Tarragon Theatre
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