Photo credit: Francis Gacad
Written by Patrick Chavis
Les Mis does not have a monopoly on the French Revolution when it comes to theater, but sometimes it sure feels like it. This dramatic comedy of Laura Gunderson’s pokes fun at this idea, and many others in a feminist exploration of women called The Revolutionists, playing now at the Curtis Theatre in Brea June 16 – 25,2023.
The Revolutionists is about four women that existed in the late 1700s, with the exception of Marianne Angelle, (played by Jazlyn Lewis). Her character is an amalgamation of several people that did exist in history. The playwright creates a fictional space where these historical women meet to become friends and discuss their issues in 1793 during the Reign of Terror, a bloody period of the revolution. The women in question are Marianne Angelle (a freedom fighter for Caribbean rights), Olympe De Gouges(a famous female playwright of the era), Charlotte Corday (an infamous assassin), and Marie-Antoinette (the last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution). The characters are played respectively by Rachel VanWormer, Sidney Aaron Aptaker, and Danielle Heaton.
Lauren Gunderson has written a hilarious and poignant script about women’s empowerment and how women from different walks of life, while different, also experience similar issues regarding their sex. Using these very different historical characters, she shows us what can happen when we talk honestly, listen, and work together. What a concept–Steel Magnolias meets French history. Who thought it would work? But it does, and Curtis does the production justice.
The set design work from Cari Noel is beautifully done. The play is partly about the importance of stories and the theater, and that’s on full display with this design. There are sheets of paper on almost every part of the stage. But what stood out the most was the glimmering projection of words and floating letters during transitions. It was gorgeous. The use of the projected guillotine and the placement of the actors was a chef’s kiss—a French chef, of course, to go with the theme.
The costume work from Aja Bell was excellent. I loved how the colors and styles sufficiently matched each character’s personality. Marie-Antoinette character in this is bubbly and funny, so of course, she was given a very obnoxious hot pink you’d find at Hot Topic.
The acting was good, and I loved the casting choices for each character. I thought they all did an excellent job. That said, Danielle Heatons Marie-Antoinette knocked this role out of the park. She just amped up the comedy with every moment she had.
Jazmin Lewis’s portrayal of Marianne Angelle was fiery, intense, and passionate.
Sidney Aaron Aptaker understood the assignment and convincingly played completely unhinged in one moment and perfectly friendly in the next. How she does it, don’t ask me.
Rachel VanaWormer’s performance is a wonderful showcase of her talent as an actress, especially in the second act when confronting her friend Marianne.
Curtis Theatre found the right match with Director Amanda Hallman and this new production company because this was quality-not with a ‘Q’ but with an ‘A.’