The Revolutionists is a contemporary play about four influential women. Set in a fictional salon during the French Revolution, the play brings together these women of their times, giving them new voices in defense of their roles in history and how that history has portrayed them. Currently playing at ArtsWest in West Seattle through February 9th, The Revolutionists is a play of “women power” presented with a healthy dose of dark humor. Get tickets and more info here.
The story is set in and around the home of the French playwright and author, Olympe de Gouges. Frequently outspoken on the subject of Women’s Equality, Mlle. de Gouges is in search of her next project: something contemporary, relevant to the times, and important to the ages. All this must be written in secrecy as “anything done or said against the Republic is treason and treason is punished by death.” The first to knock on her door is Marianne Anglle, a free woman of color, fighting for the freedom of slaves in French owned Saint Domingue (now called Haiti). She wants Madame de Gouges to write pamphlets for her, to speak out against the horrors of slavery and the hypocrisy of the Revolution’s stand on supporting human trade in foreign countries. Next to knock and enter the salon is Charolette Corday before she is off to murder the Revolutionist, Jean-Paul Marat. Charolette plans not to try avoiding arrest, and instead to take a stand and make a statement; she has come to Olympe to have the playwright pen her last words for her: something inspiring and strong. The last to enter Mlle. de Gouges home is none other than Marie-Antoinette; a confused queen, not fully grasping the situation that destiny has unwillingly thrust her into being.
The four women playing these historical roles are all excellent in their own ways. Jonelle Jordan plays Marie-Antoinette with comical timing and delivery. She presents the queen as an unfortunate character of fate more than a dignified Regina, with slight bungling and an obtuse privileged viewpoint of the world. She shows us the naïve personality of a frightened girl caught unawares, playing in an adult’s world of politics.
Hannah Mootz plays the assassin, Charolette Corday. Miss Mootz brings a strong zeal and vigor to this role with the subtle strength of Squeaky Fromme, and the blatant determination of Charles Guiteau. Her character imbibes the sheer definition of Women Power, driven by the idea to murder a monster, and take full credit to show that a woman can be equal to a man, even in the act of assassination.
Dedra D. Woods plays Marianne Anglle, the only fictional woman of this influential quartet. Her character is a composite of several women, all free – and of color – that fought endlessly to end the horrific trade of slavery in Saint Dominique. Miss Woods’ performance is strong, on queue and presented with grace and ease. She seems completely natural on the stage, and in this role, making it a pleasure to watch, and to listen to her words of equality.
Sunam Ellis plays the center of the story, Olympe de Gouges. Mlle. de Gouges was an author that shocked France with her pamphlet, Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen. She is portrayed as someone clever, desperately wanting to be remembered for writing something of influence for future female generations. It is no surprise that Marie-Antoinette is a character in her own reality, since Mlle. de Gouges wrote a play in defense of the French queen – it was one of the major points that led to the playwright’s execution in life.
The Revolutionists is a good show, done well with dark humor, and making a point of women’s equality even in the blackest of situations. The show brings out several alternative views from what history has previously dictated for this female quartet. While the concept of a playwright writing a play about a playwright’s work is not original, the author Lauren Gunderson (who is labeled as “America’s Most Performed Playwright”) takes on the challenge with a new, feminist outlook. It is of interesting note that out of the four ‘historical’ women represented on stage, only the fictional composite manages to escape the “true” rendezvous with Madame Guillotine.