Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
With such other characters as Marie Antoinette (in full costume and wig) popping up in The Revolutionists, the playwright has a lot of fun playing with time, with the dialogue taking on a contemporary nature, even as the stage embraces its 1793 Paris location. Director Sarah Hartmann does very well with her actors and the pacing. While The Revolutionists isn't a revelatory play, it certainly is a lot of fun to watch.
When the play opens, we see Rebecca Hart as Olympe de Gouges with a quill pen jotting down different story ideas on paper before discarding each of them. Hart is soon joined onstage by the terrific Erin Roché as Marianne Angelle, a free black woman concerned with slavery. The skillfully designed set by David Lewis is basically a bare stage with a gilt-edged door at the rear, against a background of plush red curtains. All of these interesting characters make their entrances through that door.
Olympe and Marianne get into numerous arguments about the significance of Olympe's play, with a definite and welcome degree of feminism infused in the plot. Perhaps the wildest individual onstage is Charlotte Corday, played by Olivia Jampol, whose intent it is to assassinate Jean-Paul Marat in his bathtub. Charlotte requests a line from Olympe for her say when she is sent to the guillotine for murder. Jampol is a riot, outfitted with a long gown and extremely long blonde hair, as she wildly stalks the stage, knife in hand. Completing the quartet of characters is Marie Antoinette herself, in all her glory and portrayed amusingly by Jennifer Holcombe. Indeed, the four actresses have quite a good time in the show and that sense of delight has an infectious effect on the audience.
What these women wear is of extreme importance and Kate Bunce has done a great job of providing the perfect costumes. The lighting design by Rider Q. Stanton is also quite effective. Still, it is the skill of the four actresses that makes The Revolutionists work so well. If Hart, as Olympe, is ultimately the lead character and is most impressive, her costars are all equally talented.
Touching on topics ranging from beheadings to the rights of slaves and what Marie Antoinette will have to eat, The Revolutionists bounces around with a sense of lightness, while containing a degree of tragedy that can be sobering. Without revealing too much, each character in the show faces her own individual fate, yet the feeling of sisterhood is palpable throughout.
The play is quite a lark, mixing an array of contemporary dialogue (including more than a few four-letter words) into the era of Paris during the French Revolution. It even manages to acknowledge the audience as a significant presence, as the eyes of those who will remember the history of the women onstage and what they have accomplished. Running a swift ninety minutes or so, The Revolutionists at Playhouse on Park is definitely worth a look and provides a rich evening of historical entertainment.
The Revolutionists, through March 10, 2019, at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Rd., West Hartford CT . For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office at 860-523-5900.