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Viva La Revolution- The Revolutionists

Reviewer: Kristine Gotham

Venue: Bay City Players

Swish! Thud! The sound of the guillotine falling opens the story of The Revolutionists. Set in France in 1793, during the Reign of Terror, The Revolutionists focuses on four very different women, experiencing the same moment in history, with distinctly different lives but the same overall viewpoint, women should be equal to men and free to be whomever they choose to be.

Megan Cummins is Olympe de Gouges, a playwright, who is asked by the others one by one to write a profound work that champions their cause. Olympe is struggling though. She is experiencing writer’s block and feels that she needs to write the one epic play that will cement her place in history.

Yolandie Hamilton is Marianne Angelle, a free woman from the Caribbean, who would find herself a slave if her circumstances were just a bit altered. She is fighting along with her husband to free the people of her homeland from being enslaved by the French. Marianne seeks out Olympe to write a pamphlet that will enjoin others to fight for her cause.

Amanda Sollman is Charlotte Corday, a self-proclaimed assassin, who is determined to kill Jean-Paul Marat, a journalist whose writings led to the beheadings of hundreds of Frenchmen. Charlotte has the assassination all planned out in her head, she just needs one thing, that one line that everyone will remember her by as she is led to her certain death by the guillotine. Charlotte seeks out the only playwright she can find, Olympe, to help her with this task.

The final character to arrive is Marie Antionette, played by Wendy Yaworski. Marie is seeking a place of safety, with others who understand that she didn’t ask to be queen, and although she enjoyed the privileges, she does not want to die for a decision that was made for her. She is equally clueless about why everyone is angry with her, and afraid for her life and that of her children.

As the play progresses you see the characters develop an affection for each other, an understanding that the ultimate revolution is for women’s rights (human rights), the right to be who they choose to be, to make their own decisions. The rapid-fire dialog keeps the play moving along and the audience engaged in a moment in history that is less than pleasant.

The actresses were perfectly cast in their roles, by directors Elizabeth Dewey and Carrie Butler. Cummins is bigger than life. You can feel the naked ambition the character has to write the great epic play and the tender caring that she has for the other woman, their causes, their fears, and their strength. Hamilton potrays Angelle beautifully. She is strong in her conviction, no one should be enslaved and it is the duty of all free people to fight for those who are not. Sollman’s Charlotte Corday is intense. There is no doubt that Marat must die, nor is there any doubt that she is the one who will kill him. Yaworski’s Marie Antoinette is altogether perfect. Yaworski embraces the character, portraying her naivety, her self-obsession, and her deep wisdom with a lightheartedness that makes you want to gather her in a big hug.

The cast are supported in their roles by excellent costuming, a minimal set that showcases the characters and their causes rather than unnecessary frills, and sound and lighting that allow the audience members to catch every nuance spoken and every movement captured.

The Reign of Terror is not a topic that is light and frothy, but Lauren Gunderson has found a way to bring it to life in a way that encourages introspection while also being entertaining. The Revolutionists is back on stage at Bay City Players on Friday, January 12, 2024 through Sunday, January 14, 2024. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Box Office.

Swish! Thud!

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