You know you’re about to have a few laughs when the curtain speech over the sound system starts with, “Bonjour Bitches.” Good writing, good direction and good acting intersect perfectly in Epic Theatre’s newest production, The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson. While Gunderson has been performed widely across the county, her witty and wise words were brought to Rhode Island for the first time by artistic director Kevin Broccoli.
This show features the talented Joanne Fayan as Olympe de Gouges, the French playwright best known for being an outspoken women’s rights advocate who demanded that French women be given the same rights as French men. Olympe is struggling to write a play and encounters three other women, Charlotte Corday, the assassin who killed John Paul Marat in his bathtub, Marie Antoinette, the former French Queen, and Marianne Angelle, a fictional character, who is a freed slave fighting against the slave trade in the French Colonies.
Marianne Angelle engages with Olympe about her role as a writer during the revolution. Fayan deftly portrays Olympe’s inner struggle with recording history accurately while remaining true to her art. Questions of privilege, feminism and fear run throughout the story as each of the women face their fate as historical figures in the violent French Revolution.
Betsy Rianldi, cast perfectly as the spicy Charlotte Corday, is funny and fierce in her role. Steph Rodger’s Marie Antoinette is hysterical and offers a different insight into the infamous Queen. Angelique Dina is excellent as a foil to Olympe as they banter about Olympe’s need to write political pamphlets instead of theater to contribute to the revolution.
The image of a guillotine frames the back of the stage. A writing desk and a chair adorn the minimalist set brought to life by the gorgeous costumes designed by Peggy Becker and Joanne Fayan. Lynne Collinson’s talent as a collaborative director is clear in this strongly acted and designed production. With less than 17% of the plays in America produced by women, it’s not often you get to see a production written, directed and acted by all women.
History tends to be told by and written about men. Gunderson’s re-telling of these stories is both fiction and a political commentary on our times.
The play is really funny, until it’s not.
Epic Theatre presents The Revolutionists through February 23 at 50 Rolfe Square, Cranston (home of the Artists’ Exchange). For tickets, go to artists-exchange.org/events