Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Revolutionists
Stage Left Productions
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's review of Something Rotten!

Suze St. John, Katryce Bridges, Cindy Covington,
and Jillian Walker

Photo by Rodney Rickard
Having topped the list of the most produced living playwrights twice in the last five years, it's no shock that Lauren Gunderson has had several of her plays presented here in Phoenix over that time period. One of her newest works, the musical Justice, which she wrote the book for, just had its world premiere at Arizona Theatre Company, who is also producing two of her plays next season. Stage Left Productions is currently presenting her 2016 historical work The Revolutionists in a spirited, funny, and ultimately moving production that features a crackerjack cast and solid direction.

Gunderson has a gift for shedding light on lesser-known historical figures, such as in Silent Sky which focused on Henrietta Leavitt, a 19th-century astronomer who worked at Harvard mapping the stars in galaxies far away. In The Revolutionists, her lens is set on four French women: playwright Olympe de Gouges; Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle; assassin Charlotte Corday; and former queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Set in 1793 when the Reign of Terror, one of the bloodiest periods of the French Revolution, was taking place, the piece finds the four women all drawn together in De Gouges' studio, where she is struggling to write what she hopes will be an important play that will pull back the curtain on the truth behind the revolution, while also focusing on female equality and making women the heroes of her play.

But her work is interrupted by three women seeking help. First, her friend Marianne, a free black woman and Haitian freedom fighter, asks Olympe to help her in crafting a declaration, or a newsletter, or maybe just a leaflet, to fight against slavery. Charlotte Corday storms into the room seeking Olympe to write some eloquent last words for to say before she is beheaded, as she's planning to murder the political journalist Jean-Paul Marat. And Marie Antoinette wants Olympe to write something to ensure she won't be forgotten, or at least won't be remembered only for that line about eating cake. With the ominous threat of the guillotine literally and figuratively hanging over their heads, the stakes are high for all four of these revolutionists.

Director Cody Dull has assembled a gifted quartet of actresses, three of whom have appeared in prior Stage Left shows, who deliver passionate performances of these interesting and intriguing women. Cindy Covington's Olympe de Gouges is determined but also unsure how to write the important play about women and history that she wants to write. Maybe it should be a musical, or possibly have puppets, she wonders, and in Covington's believable performance we believe her conviction. Katryce Bridges is wonderful as Marianne Angelle, the woman who seems to be the most understanding of the four to the reality of what's going on around them. Bridges presents a smart, realistic, and sensible woman whose refined sense of urgency to her plight and her need to rally her sisters together, both in support of her cause and their own, is palpable and highly effective.

Jillian Walker makes an auspicious Stage Left debut as Charlotte Corday, the rough, intense, young female assassin out to kill a man in the name of justice. Walker is passionate and a little kooky as Charlotte, but you never doubt for a moment that she knows exactly what she's doing and why she's doing it. With total control and a complete understanding of her character, Suze St. John is simply superb as Marie-Antoinette. Her perfect comic timing and assured line delivery gets big laughs and even though this famous woman is portrayed as being completely self-centered, St. John also makes the audience feel for Marie-Antoinette's naïveté and her unfortunate predicament in several emotionally rich moments that exhibit her quiet sense of courage.

Dull does a good job staging the action on the two-tiered wooden set by Leroy Timblin, which has lines from the play written on the floor, the walls, and on the set itself, and Dull's lighting design is nicely varied, bright for the comical moments and filled with pops of dark red hues for the executions. Dull and St. John's costumes, which are period appropriate with some contemporary touches, mirror Gunderson's use of modern language in the play. Lisa Kurvink's hair and makeup designs are great, especially Marie-Antoinette's towering wig.

In The Revolutionists, Lauren Gunderson wraps together a fast-paced discussion about a wide range of topics from politics, to feminism, racism, sexism, activism and art, along with the importance of friendship, courage and sisterhood into a fast-paced, witty, confident, and touchingly poignant drama about these four women and the importance of women's contributions to history being written down and remembered.

This cast performs through Sunday, May 29 and then a teen cast performs the show for six performances from June 1 through June 5.

The Revolutionists runs through June 5, 2022, at Stage Left Productions, 11340 West Bell Road, Suite 105, Surprise AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 623-285-6321.

Director/Prop/Sound/Lighting Designer: Cody Dull
Set Design: Leroy Timblin
Costume Design: Cody Dull and Suze St. John
Hair and Make Up Design: Lisa Kurvink

Cast: (in order of appearance)
Olympe de Gouges: Cindy Covington
Marianne Angelle: Katryce Bridges
Charlotte Corday: Jillian Walker
Marie-Antoinette: Suze St. John