Editor’s Note: For more in-depth background on the history of the French Revolution as reflected in this play from DePaul Modern Languages Professor Mme. Pascal-Anne Brault, read the Picture this Post preview here.
You may not have heard of early French feminist Olympe de Gouges, but it’s likely Simone de Beauvoir did…
You may not have given Plutarch and his Parallel Lives classic much thought, but perhaps JFK did when he penned Profiles in Courage…
More to the point for Chicago theater-goers who like to be tickled in new ways, much produced playwright Laura Gunderson has not only considered these two thought leaders—to put it in the parlance of the day—but used them as a launch pad for her romp THE REVOLUTIONISTS.
At first you might only see the pillars and desk in Organic Theater’s sparse set for this work. Oh my, why didn’t we notice the guillotines perched between them? Beheading is quite the vogue at this time in Paris. These four women are imagined to know each other or come to know each other during the course of the play—and some come to know the guillotine’s blade as well.
Olympe de Gouges (Stephanie Sullivan) is visited by her fictitious friend Marianne Angelle (Taylor Raye), a spy working for the freedom of France’s colonial slaves. From the start of these two characters’ dialogue, we realize this is a quip-a-second script. By the time Charlotte Corday (Sara Copeland) arrives in search of good lines from playwright Gouge’s pen so she doesn’t sound like a dolt when she murders Jacobin Marat, the playful winks from Gunderson’s pen pick up pace. But it is when Let-them-eat-cake coquette Marie Antoinette (Laura Sturm ) arrives and builds rapport with these three revolutionary oriented women, that we realize we have slipped into a LOL theater of the absurd. This is one heckuva fun production! It is also one that you can enjoy with a surface understanding of these historic figures or an academic’s appreciation of these iconic symbols or any level in between. We are watching the play – or rather the play within a play- unfold in the context of the French revolution. The commentary at the script’s core, from this writer’s view, is more like a Wallace Shawn styled rambling exploration of feminism today.
While the set is minimalist the costumes are plush--- especially for Marie Antoinette and Gouge who have mile high white wigs and mile wide padded hips (Costumes Co-Designers – Jeremy W. Floyd and Morgan Saaf-White). Gunderson’s script is enlivened by the palpable chemistry between these four actresses. This writer especially found Sturm’s Marie Antoinette a hoot, and worries a bit that it will be nearly impossible to see her future performances without the lens of this Marie Antoinette stand up comedy style.
If you seek realistic theater this is not for you. If you love a deep dive into philosophical terrain--- here, mainly feminist thought--- in the style of repartee comedy, put THE REVOLUTIONISTS on your short list of must-see shows.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Olympe de Gouges – Stephanie Sullivan
Marianne Angelle – Taylor Raye
Charlotte Corday – Sara Copeland
Marie Antoinette – Laura Sturm
The Production Team:
Playwright – Lauren Gunderson; Director – Bryan Wakefield; Assistant Director – Julia Rufo; Stage Manager – Angela Kring; Costume Co-Designer – Jeremy W. Floyd; Costume Co-Designer – Morgan Saaf-White; Sound Designer – Tony Reimer; Scenic Designer – Terrance McClellan; Lighting Designer – Theresa Kelly; Properties Designer – Brandyn Nordlof
Thru July 8
Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 PM
Saturdays/Sundays at 2:30 PM
Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 North Lincoln