The women get their due in ‘The Revolutionists’
Liberte, egalite — sororite? While the male characters behind the French Revolution, like Maximilien Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat, are well-known to history, the women get short shrift. Surely, there has to be a better feminine legacy in the fight for the republic than Marie Antoinette’s famous (and fictional) quip about the starving peasants and cake. In Gulfshore Playhouse’s latest production, Lauren Gunderson’s “The Revolutionists,” audiences can finally hear from four influential French women in this girl-powered, irreverent comedy playing at The Norris Center through Sunday, Feb. 3.
With biting wit and dark humor, Ms. Gunderson challenges Olympe de Gouges, a real female playwright who used her pen to champion the rights of women and slaves, to compose a new work that addresses the historical moment of political extremism. Olympe’s imaginings bring to life deposed queen Marie Antoinette, assassin Charlotte Cordray and Marianne Angelle, a composite character of Ms. Gunderson’s creation who represents the female abolitionists of the French Caribbean in a girl-powered, irreverent comedy that emphasized the timeliness — and timelessness — of the fight against misogyny and racism. And for those of you who didn’t read your history books really closely, all three of the real ladies lost their heads.
“It might be hard to imagine that a play set during the French Revolution is a comedy, but it really is,” said Shannon Sullivan, who plays Olympe. “It’s a big, loud comedy, but it also has a real grounded moment because these are real women with real stories and real emotions.”
The audience can see the pressure Olympe feels to produce the perfect play that is profound and “annoyingly prescient,” as Ms. Sullivan puts it, when Marie, Charlotte and Marianne successively and intrusively burst into the writer’s apartment. Each lady represents a new and better idea that also forces Olympe to grapple with the significance of her art.
BY LINDSEY NESMITH