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Review: THE REVOLUTIONISTS at the Human Race Theatre Company

This online performance is the best seat in your house

Review: THE REVOLUTIONISTS at the Human Race Theatre Company

Review of THE REVOLUTIONISTS at the Human Race Theatre Company

THE REVOLUTIONISTS by Lauren Gunderson is set in the Paris of 1793 but even from the first glimpse of this production, you will notice a direct connection between that time period and our own. The entire show is peppered with bits and pieces like Easter eggs to pick up as you watch.

The first thing you might notice is the set, a simple stage with a writing desk, a few chairs, and piles of manuscripts to denote this is the domain of the playwright. The set is rimmed with a strip of neon lights, connecting that space with our own. The pink and white motif used in the furnishings and the stacks and stacks of newspapers surrounding the thrust stage blend perfectly together in set designer Ray Zupp's plan.

Those neon lights might be a contemporary touch but they never distract from the action on the stage. They provide a subtle reminder (not something you'd usually expect from neon) that this world is our world, the struggles of these characters are our struggles.

Speaking of the lighting, the thrust is not the only part of John Rensel's lighting that stood out to me. The first image of the play is of a backlit guillotine. The use of the royal blue cyc and the method of execution in silhouette is striking and has a brilliant contrast to the pastel of the room on the foreground of the stage. The area lighting used to highlight the scenes of the individual characters was dark and moody and was a visual representation of the differences of their solitary thoughts and experiences. I've heard it said that lighting designers prefer audience members not notice their work but stage lighting has always fascinated me. I'll always notice great design in lights.

The story unfolds with the playwright Olympia de Gouges, portrayed by Ginna Hoben, struggling as many playwrights do, to find something compelling to write about. She's quickly interrupted by a request from a revolutionary struggling to bring awareness about colonization in the Carribean. Marianne Angelle, played by Torie Wiggins, seeks de Gouges's help in creating pamphlets and essays to illustrate the struggle. Both the characters and the actors create a quick relationship with their rapid fire dialogue. The story and their struggle to find words is pointedly interrupted (pun intended) by the would-be assassin Charlotte Corday, portrayed by Tess Talbot. Corday intends to murder Jean Paul Marat with a quick "stab-stab" in the bathtub. She, too, comes to the playwright seeking words. She intends to ask de Gouges to write something fitting to be her last words at the execution she knows will follow her action. Corday's character is meant to bring even more comedy to the stage but her passion cannot be contained. Talbot walks a perfect line between the slightly silly physicality of her intended knife work and the conviction that Corday has about her intent. Watching her work onstage to portray both sides of the character while still interacting with the playwright being pulled at both ends and the equally compelling Angelle, well, it was a triangle you could not look away from. Perfectly paced, all three women really move the opening scene along.

Review: THE REVOLUTIONISTS at the Human Race Theatre Company
Ginna Hoben, Tess Talbot, Maggie Lou Rader and Torie Wiggins in THE REVOLUTIONISTS

No doubt the most recognizable character in THE REVOLUTIONISTS is that of Marie Antionette. Maggie Lou Rader portrays the unseated Queen, now "Citizen Antionette." Rader uses a range to bring out the fourth needed character in this production. She pouts, brags, flirts, denies, and eventually honestly cares about the others. Her mannerisms and focus are eye-catching on stage.

The costume design by Janet G. Powell was another exciting mashup between period choices mixed with contemporary nods. A denim corset here, glittery platform wedges, athletic sneakers and cool red eyeglasses provided a fun pop element for each of the women. I hope they enjoyed wearing them as much as I enjoyed spotting them. Marie Antionette's wigs were also worth watching, especially her initial, lavish look. I enjoyed how her dialogue discussing her hairstyles brought this wig design just a bit more attention.

Jay Brunner's sound design also added to the mix of 1793 meets 2021 with music choices that are just enough to catch your ear and understand the utilization. The interlude music was effective in setting the mood from scene to scene. The professional clarity of sound design was impressive in how well it blended with the overall production.

Margarett Perry has directed a production that is punchy, profound and extremely well paced. She clearly knows how to connect this piece to the audience of today. All four of the actors worked seamlessly together and kept everything moving. The professionalism was apparent even through the online format. Perry's work is clearly the right piece for the right time.

Shaunn Baker and the video production team did an incredible job of making sure every shot was the exact "best seat in the house" for online viewing. No dark spots, no sightlines, just always perfectly framed to capture the facial expressions, entrances, emotions and feel of this piece. At this point in the pandemic, many might be weary of online viewing, but the video layout of this production could not be better.

THE REVOLUTIONISTS is an hour and 40 minutes that will have you laughing, thinking, searching and satisfied at the end.

THE REVOLUTIONISTS will be available on the Broadway on Demand platform from June 23 - July 4, 2021. Current subscribers will receive an email with their personal link to watch the show. Single tickets now available at Broadway on Demand by using this link:

Photo Credit: Scott J. Kimmins

Logo Credit: The Human Race Theatre Company

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