“The Revolutionists” by Lauren Gunderson

Photo+By+Ananth+Prabhu

Photo By Ananth Prabhu

Ananth Prabhu, Writer

The play “The Revolutionists” was written by Lauren Gunderson, who has had seven years of playwriting experience. John Bliss directed the play that took place on the NEIU campus’s Stage Center Theatre on November 16-19, 2022.

 

The story circulates around four women during the French Revolution. It is a play within a play due to one of the main characters, Olympe De Gouge, being a playwright. Olympe, played by Angie Velazquez, is portrayed as an activist of feminist principles who interviews and gets acquainted to the archduchess, Marie Antoinette, played by Valerie Cotsiopoulos.

 

During her writings, Olympe empathizes with Antoinette about her life as France’s scapegoat due to her airhead characteristics. Cotsiopoulos had done an excellent job portraying the airhead nature of the royal persona while also allowing some profound statements to be intermittently scattered throughout the scenes. There is definitely more than what meets the eye. In other words, there is more to people than the general first impression. Cotsiopoulos had successfully switched between the profound philosophical sentiments of Antoinette and her fluff seamlessly.

 

During one particular scene, Olympe begins contemplating her fate as Antoinette’s alliance with respect to the Revolutionaries’ desire to overthrow the monarch. Thus, she begins panicking about being executed. At this moment, the audience can feel the tension and intensity in the air about the worry that has plagued the actress’s face.

 

Marianne Angelle, played by Nichole O’Neal, is a Haitian freedom fighter and friend of Olympe. This character has not been directly alluded to within the history of the French Revolution, and thus only exists in the play.

 

Charlotte Corday, played by Heather Chilson, is a character who is known for assassinating Jean-Paul Marat. Chilson aided in allowing the Charlotte character to feel like the moderate in terms of politics by having tried to find the middle ground compromise between the monarch and nobleman.

 

Bliss had a goal of his own in putting on this show and he said he wants the actresses to “feel confident in everything they are doing to the point of owning and claiming their [characters’] parts and the characters’ interactions.”  Gunderson is a female playwright, and Bliss’s response was that there is a “need for more women writing for the theater.”

 

The joy of the theater is not just about the characters. The set design was rather clean and simple with a French-style chaise lounge, desk, a couple chairs, a door and door frame. It mimicked a French style apartment rather well.  The costume design was rather elegant for all four characters. Antoinette had the most decorous and ornate dress among the four women because she was the wealthiest character of the play. The sound and lighting are also quite important, and to prove the point, just imagine for a moment watching a movie or playing a video game while muted.  The spotlight may be the simplest form of lighting to attract the audience’s attention, but more so the sounds are ever-so influential to the theme of the play. For example, the guillotine had a sudden blackout when the shadow of the blade is seen in the background and the audience can clearly hear the whipping sound of the blade falling down.

 

As a graduate student who had not taken a history class since high school, I found my comprehension of the events of the story higher than expected. Surely, the Playbill guide aided in my understanding, but the four actresses did a fantastic job bringing emotions and personality to the characters. A unique characteristic of spectating a play in a small theater like this one is that the audience members can stick around for a question and answer session and director’s commentary after the show. I could definitely imagine someday seeing these same four actresses’ names in playhouse theaters throughout the Chicagoland area in the future. It was a genuine and outstanding performance!