When we think of plays or musicals that involve the French Revolution, our minds might go straight to “Les Misérables,” but that’s not to discount newer works like the female-led comedy “The Revolutionists,” which is the latest stage production of Bradley’s theater department.
Written by Lauren Gunderson in 2018, “The Revolutionists” follows the story of playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, (former) queen Marie Antoinette and fictional Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle on their journey to fight in the French Revolution in 1793. The play primarily takes place in the Olympes writing room in Paris, France, as well as a prison and “Madame la Guillotine.”
Bradley’s theatre department did a great job in bringing the four characters to life through their acting, costumes and set. Emma O’Mahoney, a senior theater performance major, is to thank for the creation of the production with her student directing for the play.
As far as the acting went, the actors brought light and laughter to the characters while balancing anger and sadness.
Samantha Macauley, a freshman theater performance major, portrayed Marie Antoinette, bringing humor and eccentrics to the performance with a loud entrance utilizing trumpets and a moving platform.
Macauley’s ability to capture any emotion that Marie was feeling in the moment through her facial expressions was a true hit with the audience. A few fan favorites were when she would make an awkward smile, an over-the-top frown or even a duck face to show how uncomfortable the scene was.
Mery Drilling-Coren, a sophomore theatre performance major, brought a witty seriousness to Charlotte Corday on her mission to murder French revolutionary Jean Paul-Marat, with her death scene being of special note. During the scene, she stood high on the guillotine platform, staring straight at the audience, loudly announcing Corday’s final words before being the first of the four to die.
As the more serious character of the play, Marianne Angelle, played by Ieshah Edwards, was a voice of clarity and reason. When the other characters went to extreme eccentricity, Edwards embodied the character’s calming demeanor and ability to keep them in check.
Finally, senior theater performance major Sarah Dove brought a playfulness to the playwright Olympe De Gouis, along with handling the selfishness of the character with ease. Multiple times throughout the play, De Gouis would actively voice her ignorance about her position in the revolution.
Dove was able to convey the lines and actions in a way that motivated the anger created with her lines and actions before resolving it in the ending scene, where she sees the light and importance of writing, just before her death via guillotine.
Another highlight of the play was the costumes. While all the characters’ main dresses were beautiful and fit the character type that they all played, the death costumes of Charlotte and Marie Antoinette were some of the most interesting.
Drilling-Coren’s corset had the life details of Corday written on it, but the words didn’t even wrap around the entire corset because of how young she was when she was executed. For Macauley’s costume, however, the life of Antoinette was wrapped all around her skirt and displayed proudly as she stepped up on the guillotine.
The play’s set was simple, with a writing desk in one corner, red curtains covering the entrance that Marie used and a moving platform that brought out the main focal point, the center of interest, “Madame la Guillotine.” The guillotine stood tall and prominent on stage and, as time went on, became covered with fake blood.
The play additionally used lighting to highlight how haunting it was when each of the women, except for Marianne, would recite a final monologue and a song about revolution before a loud swing of the sword was heard and everything went dark.
Overall, “The Revolutionists” was an excellent display of humor, sadness and the urge to make change in an ever-changing world.