Fierce, feisty and funny – meet “The Revolutionists”
— Created October 13, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley has a tradition of bringing meaningful art to life onstage and its latest production, “The Revolutionists,” is no exception. The play opened last weekend and will continue live productions through Saturday, Oct. 23. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and there is one matinee performance remaining at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17.
Written just six years ago by playwright Lauren Gunderson, “The Revolutionists” is the story of four women brought together during the tumultuous time of the French Revolution. The WICA production is directed by Rose Woods and features Abie Ekenezar as Hatian rebel Marianne Angelle, Teresa Hess as former queen Marie Antoinette, Jayne Hubbard as assassin Charlotte Corday, and Deana Duncan as playwright Olympe de Gouges.
And yes, it’s a comedy.
“That’s the strength of this playwright,” said Duncan, who is also WICA’s artistic director. “Lauren Gunderson writes like a train coming off the tracks. The comedy, for me, is in the speed of these characters’ thoughts and how high their stakes are. They don’t know they are in a comedy, they are fighting for art and ideas and their lives and it feels like being in an episode of the ‘Gilmore Girls,’ it’s that much dialogue and speed.”
“Drama and danger in real life can be hilarious,” said Hubbard when asked how the story spins itself into a comedy considering the time period in which it’s set. “This play doesn’t need to spin itself into a comedy, because Gunderson has written real characters experiencing real drama and danger.”
She has captured sisterhood at its finest, according to Hubbard.
“It’s about the intimate, unseen resilience of women,” she said. “On our first rehearsal, I said ‘What a gift these words are to us! Gunderson has done most of the work for us. We don’t need to break our backs. All we need to do is say her words,’ and I still feel that is true. It’s funny because it’s real.”
“There are astounding words that transpire between each woman in their conversations,” Ekenezar said. “The satirical roller coaster that these women endure brings laughter from sarcasm, which is often needed in these heavily emotional circumstances.”
“Well I think everyone can identify with these women because they are written so real,” Duncan said. “They are dealing with trying to understand a political system that does not represent or protect them, they are fighting for family and worried about how their children will perceive their choices, they are battling inner struggle to fight for what they believe in against all odds and they just want to live and be happy…don’t we all?”
And while literally hundreds of years have passed between then and now, much of what these women were fighting for remains relevant.
“I think it’s very important for women, now, to know that this struggle continues and will likely always continue but we need to do our best to be strong and fight for what’s right AND never forget to keep fighting or be complacent,” said Ekenezar.
“I have found that this play is being produced across the country more than almost any other production of mine at the moment,” said playwright Gunderson. “Something about this group of women fighting for their lives and for a free and fair country resonates now more than when I wrote it six years ago. I wonder why?
“But to me, it’s not the politics or history that makes the story so compelling (the history is all true!),” she continued. “It is the feminism and its comedy and joy. Combining both character-rich comedy and intense civil unrest brings both the heart and the drive of these characters to the forefront. We laugh with them even as we feel deeply for them.”
Duncan said “The Revolutionists” isn’t like other plays audiences may have seen.
“It’s not like most plays, the structure is different,” she described. “Lauren Gunderson takes a historical true story and slams it up against modern times while setting these characters in a dream world of 1793 Paris. It’s funny, heart wrenching, and beautiful. Audiences will LOVE the setting, costumes, and lighting while hopefully falling in love with these women.”
“This show will break and heal their heart,” said Ekenezar about what audiences will find appealing. “The stories in front of them are real. The time spent to bring the story to life is real.”
Those interested in seeing the play should note WICA is now a mandatory vaccination facility. Proof of vaccination is required for both audiences and actors to enter the building. For unvaccinated patrons, a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the performance is required for admission. Masks are required indoors, whether vaccinated or not. Find the complete policy or purchase tickets online at wicaonline.org.
Just as audiences are happy to get back to being entertained, the cast of “The Revolutionists” is equally pleased to find themselves onstage once again.
“I can’t wait to have an audience and feel the energy of a room full of people again (with safety precautions in place, of course!),” said Hubbard. “I miss being in community and sharing stories with people face-to-face. I think storytelling is a fundamental part of being human.”
“It’s rare to wrap social commentary in a comic, poignant, almost satirical farce,” said Duncan. “This new American play…is such a strong script – you won’t want to miss it!”