Saturday, March 12, 2016

Heads Will Roll...and You're Gonna Laugh!

The Revolutionists is about women of the French Revolution, also known as "The Reign of Terror", who wanted to cause change for women's rights. They were courageous, terrified, brave, brash, steadfast and some of them lost their heads. 

7 Stages presents the gravity their plight—actions that would help form modern societal norms—and does it in with a quite a few laughs along the way. Yes, it's a comedy.

Park Krausen, Parris Sarter, Rachel Frawley, and Stacy Melich |  The Revolutionists | 7 Stages | Photo by Stungun Photography
Park Krausen, Parris Sarter, Rachel Frawley, and Stacy Melich
The Revolutionists | 7 Stages | Photo by Stungun Photography

There's nothing funny about someone losing their head to the guillotine—which continued to be used in France for executions until 1981—but humans otherwise offer us quite a lot at which to laugh. 

Award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson said—of the fight for gender equality—that she tends "to fight with humor more than anger. Making someone laugh invites them into the conversations, it equates us as people as opposed to dividing us by ideology."

This story is based on three historical figures and a fourth fictional character based on historical fact, each of them fighting for liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "liberty, equality, fraternity". Today that's the national motto of France and the Republic of Haiti.

While the four women may not have been friends in real life, writer Gunderson imagines for us how their common plight might have made them dearest of friends and supporters of each other. As much as this is a tale of inciting change, it's a touching tale of sisterhood. 

Stacy Melich and Park Krausen | The Revolutionists |  7 Stages | Photo by Stungun Photography
Stacy Melich and Park Krausen | The Revolutionists |  7 Stages
Photo by Stungun Photography

Allow me, please, to share a few notes about the amazing, brilliant and talented cast. Also, I'll share a link to a video about the historical figures, should you wish to learn a lot in a little time about their respective histories. My friend Barry, who is a documentary and YouTube aficionado, turned me on to history teacher and YouTuber Tom Richey, who entertains and mesmerizes while teaching history...not an everyday feat! The links to the videos are him/his.

Stacy Melich, magnificently performs the role of Olympe de Gouges—a radical feminist playwright who also penned the "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen"—unfortunately did not, in her time, produce the results she'd hoped for. As noted in the play, sometimes heroes are not identified until many, many years later. [Tom Richey VIDEO about Olympe de Gouges]

I saw Stacy perform in a revenge thriller late last year, The Thrush & the Woodpecker, in which she also was magnificent. I think you're going to love her performance as Olympe de Gouges. 

Park Krausen, who performs the role of Marie Antoinette—the Tragic Queen of France—is playful, splashy and quite lovable. Even if you know nothing about the French Revolution, you've probably heard of Marie Antoinette and that she met her end at the guillotine. As depicted in The Revolutionists, she didn't say some of what history says she said and she wasn't a horrible, dismissive person, either. [Tom Richey VIDEO about Marie Antoinette]

Park Krausen and Parris Sarter | The Revolutionists | 7 Stages | Photo by Stungun Photography
Park Krausen and Parris Sarter | The Revolutionists | 7 Stages
Photo by Stungun Photography

Rachel Frawley, perfectly cast to perform Charlotte Corday—is riveting! Her performance is emotion-evoking and full of heart. I think audience members, myself included, felt the most sad and moved by this character. It's terrifying what happened to women in those days—it's shocking what still happens today for that matter, another great reason to see this show. [Tom Richey VIDEO about Charlotte Corday]

I see a lot of Charlotte Corday, actually. A friend has a spectacular reproduction of the famous Hauer painting of her in prison—following the assignation of Jean-Paul Marat (stabbed in his bathtub), which led her also to the guillotine. I am truly amazed at how incredibly well Rachel brings Charlotte to life. And whoever was responsible for props in this show brought a whimsical touch of humor in the giant kitchen knife she's wielding throughout the show.

Parris Sarter, who performs the role of Marianne Angelle, is moving, passionate, bold and more than lively. She's a brilliant actress and I hope I get to see her again.

From an interview with Sarter, she said, "I want the audience to walk away saying that these women were truly badass, but also say that it's important to stand and fight for something that is important to you. To remember that these women didn't wait around for anyone to fight their battles." 

I wholeheartedly agree!

Marianne is the only fictional character in the show, playing a revolutionist fighting against France's enslavement of black Haitians—happening at the same time the French were fighting for freedom! Gunderson cleverly named this character Marianne after the symbol for French freedom, La Marianne

A wonderful surprise, you don't have to have a degree in 18th Century French history or even be a history buff to enjoy this show, directed by the talented Heidi S. Howard. You'll risk learning a thing or two, but mostly you'll be amazed, laugh a lot and find yourself on your feet applauding at the finale.

At the risk of being relegated to the Dark Ages, go see this enlightening, exciting and engaging performance of The Revolutionists at 7 Stages through Sunday, March 20. 

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