Sunday, March 8, 2020

Mounting the Rostrum

"Women have the right to mount the scaffold; they should likewise have the right to mount the rostrum." - Olympe de Gouges

And mount the rostrum they do. 

Four of the most badass women in Richmond - all at the top of their craft - come together under the direction of a fifth badass woman - and have our full attention. 

Laura Grunderson's play The Revolutionists is a comi-tragedy about four women revolutionaries set during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, a time of mass hysteria and public executions. 

The Revolutionists is based on four actual historical figures: playwright Olympe de Gouges, political assassin Charlotte Corday, Marie Antoinette, and the face of the French Revolution herself - Marianne (known as Marianne Angell in the play) - whose image lives on today in statues, coins and stamps. 


As the play opens, Olympe de Gouges (Maggie Roop) faces her own beheading and imagines writing a play with a different outcome. De Gouges is an intellectual force in her own right and threatens the monarchy. 

As she sets about rewriting her own story, she is called upon by political assassin Charlotte Corday ( Lydia Hynes)- who has fatally stabbed Marat in his bathtub - to write Charlotte's final words before facing her executioner. 

Marianne Angell (Katrinah Carol Lewis) comes to De Gouges for pamphlets in support of her cause of abolishing slavery in the Caribbean colonies. 

And Marie Antoinette (Maggie Bavolack) just wants a more favorable telling. 

The Revolutionists is a play-within-a-play. A *meta* play about art and theatre and power. Grunderson's script sometimes feels more concerned with the meta than the immediate. It tends towards the intellectual. However, this dynamic ensemble of extraordinary women under Chelsea Burke's adroit direction give it all the heart and soul to elevate the play to something fierce and powerful.

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka 

Though the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror are more than two hundred years past, the play is more than relevant to the 21st century. 

In just the last week, women are mourning the dissolution of Elizabeth Warren's campaign for president. She may have mounted the rostrum, but a woman still has yet to lead the helm. 

TheatreLAB's The Revolutionists is a call for the women revolutionaries of our time to stay the course. Our stories are powerful, after all, and we will no longer let them be rewritten by the patriarchy. 

The Revolutionists continues at TheatreLAB's The Basement through March 21. For tickets click here

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