EXCERPTS FROM THE REVIEW
Below are excerpts from the December 11, 2017 DC Theatre Scene review of The Revolutionists.
The giddy sense of discovery takes hold of you during Lauren Gunderson’s plays about unsung women throughout history. This fall’s theater highlight was certainly Avant Bard’s luminous production of Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, which brought to brilliant light the life and beautiful mind of the 18th-century mathematician and physicist who was a lot more than just a fanciful footnote as Voltaire’s lover.
Everyman’s lively and crazy-timely production of The Revolutionists continues this marvelous trajectory as four more women’s stories are stripped of myth and misogyny and portrayed honestly and with electrifying truth.
The Revolutionists is a call to action for all. Grab your red sash and go.
Gunderson’s fantasy-comedy, directed by Casey Stangl with a penchant for the cerebral and the screwball, imagines a meeting between four women during France’s Reign of Terror (1793-1794): feminist playwright Olympe de Gouges (Megan Anderson, portraying Olympe with a writer’s ego and touching vulnerability), assassin Charlotte Corday (played with riot grrrl intensity and attitude Emily Kester), French queen Marie Antoinette (Beth Hylton) and Marianne Angelle (the arrestingly articulate Dawn Ursula), a radical and spy from Haiti rallying against slavery in the Caribbean French colonies. The Oui-Oui Sisterhood, if you will.
The characters barge in on Olympe as she is trying to write an “important” play about women’s roles in times of revolution—sororite in a time that emphasizes fraternite. And as anyone who writes knows, when you sit down to write something epic and important through the ages, you wind up frittering the day away watching cat videos.
The conversational roar goes up a few decibels with the arrival of Marie Antoinette, an entitled airhead with speaks in third person, but who reveals herself as achingly human and vilified by muckraking journalists who condemn her as a libertine, lesbian and capable of committing incest with her children.
No one except for maybe Beyoncé can relate to Marie’s opulence-cubed lifestyle (replicas of ships anchored in her hair; miniature mansions scattered around Versailles “just for fun”) but you have to have some sympathy for a 13-year-old bride who met her husband-to-be on their wedding day and who had to give birth in front of hundreds of people in court.
Marie’s here for a rewrite of her story—she doesn’t deny her royal excesses, but she wants people to know there’s more to her than pompadours and jewels. “It’s always the women who have to do the changing, isn’t it?,” Marie observes, one of many bon mots that slip from her mouth like bon-bons.
Her self-absorption and obliviousness reminds you of the character Karen on Will and Grace and Hylton has Megan Mullallay’s comic timing and irresistibleness. Her Marie is vain, but sparkly and she buoys up a comedy that sometimes gets mired in high-falluting discussions about the importance of theater and art, especially in times of turmoil.
A delicious example of this is when Marie asks Charlotte for a candy, which she tortuously unwraps with cellophane-crackling glee while Olympe breathlessly describes the plot of her new play about misunderstood Marie Antoinette. Priceless.
“Sometimes, a revolution needs a woman’s touch,” Marie Antoinette says. Damn straight. The Revolutionists is a call to action for all. Grab your red sash and go.