Charlotte Corday is about to assassinate the cruelest man in Paris. But first she needs a really good exit line.
Marianne Angelle wants a pamphlet to expose the hypocrisy of “liberated” France keeping a slave colony in her native Saint Domingue.
Confined to a lesser bedroom in the palace, and denied dessert, Marie Antoinette wants a rewrite of her life…preferably one that does not end in the embrace of “Madame Guillotine.”
With mobs storming the streets, these three women turn to feminist playwright Olympe de Gouges to tell their stories. And Olympe would be the perfect choice.
If not for her predilection for romantic comedies, musicals and hand puppets.
Not to mention her personal terror of getting caught up in the Reign of Terror.
“You can’t kill the writers, that’s Democracy 101.”
What’s the point of even going through a bloody revolution if those most in need of liberation – women, as has ever been – continue to be oppressed by the liberators?
Which happens to be the point of “The Revolutionists,” Lauren Gunderson’s biting satire about life, death and misogyny now on stage at the Hippodrome.
“Revolutionists” is a crisp and extremely funny exploration of the forces that to this day conspire to keep women in their place. And of the rebellious nature of women who are simply not having it.
What is life after all, Marianne muses, if not “women showing boys how revolutions are done”?
And these women have something to show us all.
Much credit to director Stephanie Lynge for her keen casting eye. Call it chemistry, mutually assured empathy, or common cause convictions, these sisters in sedition clearly get each other. And the audience knows it.
Despite all the talk of murder, torture and terror “Revolutionists” has its tender moments – as when aristocratic Marie and island girl Marianne put aside their mutual antagonisms to compare notes over child rearing and the fine art of marriage.
It is a sheer joy to see Marissa Toogood return to the Hippodrome as spitfire assassin Charlotte. Toogood, a UF fine arts grad, cut her acting teeth in several Hipp productions before decamping to New York. She never disappointed before, and she certainly does not now. “I want some dialogue,” she appeals to Olympe. “I have a guy to murder.”
Danae Osseni’s Marianne is the center of gravity that keeps the others from flying off into space. Osseni tempers righteous indignation with the firmness of a mother dealing with unruly children. “Nobody wants a musical about the French Revolution,” she explains to Olympe.
Elise Hudson must be seen to be believed as Marie Antionette. Frothy? Yes. Frivolous? Certainly. And don’t get me started on her ribbons. But Hudson’s Marie also possesses an inner steel that enabled her to keep the monarchy together…until everything fell apart.
That thing about eating cake? Taken out of context, she explodes. “I was ordering lunch.
Playwright Olympe is the most complicated character in the play, and if she doesn’t get the story right all will be lost for these women. But who is she, really? Laura Hodos keeps Olympe changing and evolving, seemingly without breaking a sweat. “Fear is how you know you’re paying attention,” she retorts when accused of cowardice.
“The Revolutionists” has its flaws. Its descent onto surrealism after the first act can wear a bit thin after a while. And one gets the sense that for all of Gunderson’s keen insight, she didn’t quite know how to finish the play. “We all knew this was coming,” says Marie. Maybe, but events grow a bit muddled in the end
Which is not to suggest that “The Revolutionists” isn’t worth the price of admission. It is all that and more.
For ticket prices and showtimes see The Hippodrome’s web page.