The main flaw in Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists is not that it’s yet one more play about a playwright agonizing over her unwritten play but that its running gag is about how surely no one would ever want to watch a musical about the French Revolution. (Les Misérables was about the Paris Uprising of 1832.) But of course history does not really matter in a play that brings together four women—playwright Olympe de Gouge (Kat McDonnell), Caribbean antislavery revolutionary Marianne Angelle (Kamille Dawkins), assassin Charlotte Corday (Izis Mollinedo), and (who else?) Marie Antoinette (Sarah Goeden)—to engage in contrived dialogues about feminism, boyfriends, and which bows are the best bows (answer: teacup bows, bien sûr!). As a thought experiment about whether it’s better to take action or make art, the execution can get a bit precious.
These flaws do not make for a bad evening, as Strawdog Theatre Company’s production has its share of pleasures. Chief among these is a strong ensemble, directed by Denise Yvette Serna, that lends believable charisma to each character. Particularly commendable is Goeden, who, as a thoroughly magnetic Marie, relishes her notoriety and revels in the contradiction between frivolity and nobility. Leah Hummel’s costumes, all frothy white, with corsets and panniers, are striking to look at against the neon lights of Alex Casillas’s scenic design. But is the manifestation of these personalities enough to make up for a play that is more about itself than about revolution or these historical figures? Not really. v