BWW Review: THE REVOLUTIONISTS at The Adobe Rose Theatre
In times of duress, theatre can be many things - cathartic, comforting, inspiring - and the very timely production of The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson (the most produced contemporary playwright in America) at The Adobe Rose Theatre succeeds in being all of those things, as well as being both a riotous and moving evening of theatre.
The Revolutionists is a meta theatrical and self aware comedy involving a hypothetical meeting of four women (three are real, and one is a combination of several historical figures) during the French Revolution - and yes, there are Les Mis references. As the women plan their fight for equality and, thus, await potential death via the guillotine, they discuss and debate feminism, the value of art, the meaning of equality... and sometimes ribbons. The writing is modern, fresh, and irreverent - if, at times, particularly with the exposition, perhaps a little flat (though even the weaker dialogue was always elevated by the strong performances of the four actresses in this play). The writing was also frequently either profound ("it never ends well unless you write the ending yourself") or humorously quotable ("I can't listen when I'm whining!").
Technically, the production is quite good. The set design (by Geoff Webb) is sparse (the script calls for something less realistic to suit the multiple settings in the play), opening with only a desk, a guillotine blade suspended from the ceiling, and multiple chandeliers, with a few set pieces that come on and off as required later in the show. This works very well, and the fact that the set pieces on at the end of the first act are flipped during intermission was appreciated, as it was helpful for sight lines - the flexible Adobe Rose space was set up like a profile theatre for this production.
The lighting design, by Alexandra Pontone, aided in depicting the different settings, and sound design by Lindsay Hope Pearlman (also the director) further helped establish the universe of the play. The costumes, by Jaminska Jesic, were gorgeous and suited each character perfectly.
As for the characters themselves, I will start by saying that Ms. Pearlman (of Broadway's Bandstand), directed her four leading ladies brilliantly. Her sense of comedic timing was excellent, and the clever, energetic staging felt true to both the essence of the characters and the heightened nature of the play. A minor quibble is that at times (particularly towards the beginning of the play), I felt like things were played a bit too heightened, and perhaps could have been a little bit more natural, but that's a very minor issue in the scope of the whole play.
Of the ladies, first of all - brava. Each actress delivered a nuanced, "hilarious!!" (per the play's version of Marie Antoinette), and fascinating portrayal of a very real, very vibrant woman. Mary Beth Lindsey had the audience in stitches as ring leader and writers-blocked playwright, Olympe de Gouges; she completely commanded everyone's attention from the moment she set foot on stage, and received several seconds of applause just for coming out to introduce the second act. Danielle Louise Reddick brought a ferocity to Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle, but, as personal tragedy hit her character in the second act, her interpretation was completely heartbreaking and brought many audience members (myself included) to tears.
Ariana Karp was also a force of nature as the young assassin Charlotte Corday; the role seemed almost to be written for Ms. Karp, and her grounded delivery provided an excellent foil to the zanier antics of some of the other characters. Speaking of zany, Maureen Joyce McKenna's Marie Antoinette delighted the audience with her highly comedic, (initially) self absorbed, out of touch, "celebutante" demeanor; as Ms. McKenna's Antoinette learned and revealed herself to be not so very different than the other women in the play, though, she also brought a surprising amount of heart to the production. More than just being strong individual performances, the ensemble also worked magnificently together, and the "sisterhood" that develops between the four was absolutely lovely.
It is always a delight to see a production where everything - the play itself, the tech, the direction, and the performances - come together so beautifully to express something so real, necessary, and relevant. This production of The Revolutionists does so, and in a way that is rarely seen. The standing ovation from the sold out crowd confirmed that I am far from the only one who felt that way, and I commend the Adobe Rose for producing this work.
The Revolutionists runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30, and Sundays at 3 through November 4th. Tickets may be purchased online at https://adoberosetheatre.org/ or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Tickets are $25 general admission, $20 for seniors/military, and $15 for students.