“It is the struggles of those who have come before us that make us able to continue the struggle today.” So says Sara Thompson, dramaturg for Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists, now playing at Raleigh Little Theatre’s, under the direction of Amy White. Thompson also reminds us that history is written by the victors, something to keep in mind when thinking of the “Let them eat cake” meme attributed to French Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-93).
The Revolutionists at RLT is witty, funny, and serious. Very serious. It speaks to a women’s movement for real equality that is embedded in history for probably as long as there has been history. This is the story of four women, three real and one symbolizing the enslaved people of the New World, during France’s Reign of Terror. The French women are Olympe de Gouges (1748-93), Charlotte Corday, and Marie Antoinette. The fourth woman, the created symbol, is Haitian free-woman Marianne Angelle.
Joncie Sarratt has laid out a sumptuous set, which places us immediately in late 18th century Paris, in the study of a frantic Olympe de Gouges. A huge Louis IV writing desk dominates the center of the thrust stage, and up three steps stand three ominous looking constructions with a head-sized hole at the bottom and canvas covering whatever is above them. The desk is scattered with manuscript papers, and there is a chaise lounge along the left side. Sarratt has done a great job of keeping the set simple but expressive of the period.
Director Amy White has carefully chosen a quartet of fine actors, and she blocks them into positions and movements that even from our poor seats allowed us to observe everything on stage. She has also coached them into profoundly believable performances, with exquisite timing, broad ranges of emotions, and pertinent gestures.
RLT‘s long-time costumer Vicki Olson has created her usual excellent garb, adorning both Marie Antoinette and Olympe de Gouges in elaborate 18th century detailed finery. Marianne Angelle and Charlotte Corday also wear fitting clothing of the period. The three costume changes make for powerful transitions.
Sound designer John Maruca devises realistic although discomforting sounds, enhancing the characters’ (and our) dreads as appropriate.
Lu Meeks is bombastic and wonderful as Olympe de Gouges. She takes over the stage upon her entrance and shares it with her fellow characters generously while never weakening a bit. She is a whirlwind of action and exposition. Kudos!
Liz Webb does a bang-up job of Charlotte Corday, the famous murderer of Jean-Paul Marat, while matching the historical pictures of the character closely. Webb catches the energy and fire of Corday.
Marianne Angelle, the fictional composite of Haitian women whose stories were never told, is marvelously played by Tiffany Lewis), bringing us through the misery of the still-forgotten enslaved people in the new found world.
The role of Marie Antoinette, apparently badly misreported historically, is played with incredible humor and sensitivity by Melanie Simmons, whose timing and delivery verge on perfection. She portrays a woman of good heart, given to flightiness, perhaps to escape the horror she lives in.
This show belongs on theater-lovers “must-see” list, for the quality of the production, the sincerity of the acting, and enjoyment of the script.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 29th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Roy C. Dicks: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9112; and Sept. 27th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with director Amy White and actresses Melanie Simmons and Liz Webb, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://www.wunc.org/post/their-heads-revolutionists-come-raleigh; and Aug. 28th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment preview by Susie Potter: https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/08/the-revolutionists-take-over-raleigh-little-theatre/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 30th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/09/the-revolutionists-at-rlt-praises-four-unsung-heroines-of-the-bloody-french-revolution/.)
Raleigh Little Theatre presents THE REVOLUTIONISTS at 8 p.m. Oct. 4-6, 3 p.m. Oct. 7, 8 p.m. Oct. 11-13, and 3 p.m. Oct. 14 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $25 ($21 students and seniors 62+), except all seats $15 on Sunday, Sept. 30th.
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/the-revolutionists/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2186800708205779/.
RLT‘S 2018-19 SEASON: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows-and-events/memberships/.
PRESENTER: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
VENUE: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/tickets/seating.html. MAPS/DIRECTIONS: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/map-directions.html.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: At 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 6th, Eyes Up Here Comedy will present a special Eyes Up Here Comedy Show — Theme: Lost My Head: Standup & Stories, on the set of The Revolutionists, hosted by comic Erin Terry and featuring Brett Williams and Rose Higgins.
NOTE 3: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe The Revolutionists’ 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7th, performance.
The Revolutionists: A Comedy, A Quartet, A Revolutionary Dream Fugue, A True Story (2016 Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park comedy): https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=5692 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), https://newplayexchange.org/plays/3510/revolutionists (New Play Exchange).
The Script: https://www.dramatists.com/previews/5692.pdf (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.).
Lauren Gunderson (San Francisco, CA playwright and screenwriter): http://laurengunderson.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/LaurenMGunderson (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/LalaTellsAStory (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Gunderson (Wikipedia).
Amy White (Raleigh, NC director and assistant professor of Theatre and Musical Theatre at William Peace University): https://www.peace.edu/profiles/amy-white/ (WPU bio) and https://www.facebook.com/amy.white.927758 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.