Four influential women of 1793 Paris are the empowering subjects of Lauren Gunderson’s intellectual comedy “The Revolutionists.” The play is streaming on “Broadway on Demand” through July 4 in its local premiere courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company.
Directed with skillful tone by Margarett Perry and filmed inside the Loft Theatre, this irreverent work, originally scheduled to be produced by the Human Race last season, is set during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.
Gunderson delightfully imagines a sisterhood between playwright Olympe de Gouges (passionate, witty Ginna Hoben), infamous queen Marie Antoinette (excitably energetic Maggie Lou Rader), assassin Charlotte Corday (defiant Tess Talbot), and Haitian activist Marianne Angelle (wonderfully earthy Torie Wiggins).
Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS
Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS
In spite of their stark differences and backgrounds, the women find purpose in a shared goal: equality for women. In fact, in 1791, de Gouges, considered a feminist pioneer, notably wrote her “Declaration of the Rights of Woman.” Execution looms (the sight of a guillotine is a constantly chilling reminder of history), but these bold, fearless and outspoken ladies are strengthened by each other in their quest to determine and debate what it means to be a true revolutionary.
Unsurprisingly, Gunderson uses de Gouges as her conduit, a means to express her own views on the profound allure of art and playwrighting. “Theater isn’t flourish – it’s fundamental,” de Gouges says while feverishly attempting to write about the world around her, a world in uproar as she embraces the power to speak her mind. There are instances in which Gunderson’s views of art teeters on heavy-handedness, but the colorful girlfriend sitcom-esque banter she offers is a key asset to the script’s contemporary charm (“Women showing the boys how revolutions are done, women fighting for our rights to life, liberty and divorce”).
Perry’s expert artistic team includes Shaunn Baker of WorldStage Media as director of photography and head of film production (greatly heightening intimacy with dramatic close-ups), costumer Janet G. Powell (particularly providing beautifully regal period attire for Rader), scenic designer Ray Zupp (creating a lovely Parisian drawing room complete with rallying cries as well as bundles of scripts and endless paper), lighting designer John Rensel, and sound designer/music supervisor Jay Brunner (who knew “We’re Not Gonna Take It” could be just as effective on harpsichord?).
“Story is the heartbeat of humanity,” says de Gouges to her cohorts. “And humanity gets very dark when the wrong stories are leading the people.”
Serving as both an engaging portal to the past and a cautionary tale for the present, “The Revolutionists” are here to tell it like it is.
How to Watch
What: “The Revolutionists”
When: Through July 4
Cost: $25 plus $3.95 service charge
FYI: The play is performed in 1 hour and 40 minutes and contains adult language.
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