For three days, the auditorium became a window into the hilariously backwards universe of Voltaire’s imagination.
Held from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10 and performed by the Statesmen Theatre, Optimism! is TJ Edward’s modernized adaptation of Voltaire’s Candide.
Expelled from the castle of his youth for a passionate love affair with his beautiful cousin Cunegon (Marcelo Guzman), young Candide (Liz Carlson) gets his first taste of the vast and unwelcoming world around him. In plot twist after plot twist, Candide finds himself in a crazy intercontinental adventure, traveling from Bulgaria to South America in order to reunite with his first love. Throughout Candide’s escapades, he encounters a parallel universe that plays off of satirized and absurd stereotypes of different cultures.
“This is a satire of everything. It’s a satire of government, it’s a satire of politics and different religions and belief systems and philosophies and all these other things,” director Jason Tamborini said.
A cast of 70 characters played by 17 actors and actresses voyages through 13 to 14 countries in the show. A backdrop of vintage suitcases stacked in front of a map paid homage to the themes of travel.
“I wanted to play with the idea of travel,” Tamborini said, adding that the theme “[holds] it all together like the middle of the Oreo.”
Tamborini, who saw the show performed professionally last year, decided to experiment with the production creatively by zeroing in on a theme of travel. He also swapped gender roles, casting a female actress as the male lead, and a male actor as the female love interest.
“A really hot topic right now is gender equality,” Tamborini said.
He wanted to “make [the play] a little bit more modern-feeling” by adding a focus besides political and religious satire.
“We’re really paying attention to what the show means,” junior Liz Carlson, who played the part of Candide, said. “It’s a lot of- not even social justice, just satire, which is nice.”
Although the role of the Candide is male, Carlson, despite her gender, added a youthful and boyish charm to the character. Senior Marcello Guzman played the beautiful maiden Cunegon, wearing a long skirt and a flower in his hair.
“The women’s roles in [the play] are really more of the caretaker and provider, or the commodity,” Tamborini said, explaining his casting decision. “But we have so many strong females and I really wanted to use them.”
For Carlson, a new student at Marshall, playing the primary main character is a first.
“It’s interesting to have to hone in and play someone that’s realistic and relatable and genuine,” Carlson said.
Aside from a few of the principal actors, including Carlson and Guzman, most of the performers played multiple roles in order to make up the bulk of the 70 characters.
“It gives the students a chance to play several different roles all in one show, versus having a focus on one role,” Tamborini said, adding that “it makes a much larger use of their set of skills.”
Despite having minor technical difficulties, the show was an overall success.
“I thought it was lovely,” junior Kira Robbins said. “We were behind a few days leading into it, but we all worked really hard and came together to create a spectacular show.”