Regional Reviews: San Diego
In Paris of 1793, the playwright and political activist Olympe de Gouges (Moxie co-founder and Development Programs Manager Jo Anne Glover) wants to write a show that will leave an impact on society. She plans on featuring assassin Charlotte Corday (Samantha Ginn), Marie Antoinette (Lisel Gorell-Getz), and black activist Marianne Angelle (Cashae Monya), a composite character. When the four meet at Olympe's house, they discuss politics, death, and their personal lives. Olympe, Marie and Marianne become intrigued when Charlotte discusses her plans to murder the radical Jacobin journalist Jean-Paul Marat. Her talk of killing reminds the women that their lives might not last too long, given the revolution and dangerous times in France.
Labeled as "an irreverent comedy," Gunderson's tone is a bit more complicated than what that phrase suggests. Act one is largely comical and often hilarious, with cheeky puns, deliberate groaners, modern slang, and Les Misérables references galore. There is also foreshadowing of the grim situations that occur after intermission. In act two, there aren't a whole lot of jokes until near the climax of the evening. Instead, Gunderson decides to show how tragic the Reign of Terror was for numerous French citizens. As the drastic change in mood is developed early on, it doesn't feel like an awkward or sudden shift. As mentioned earlier, the playwright's messages about taking a stand and doing what's right aren't expressed quietly. Certain audience members may find her points heavy handed. If a few recurring sentences become a little too repetitive, the dialogue as a whole turns Gunderson's narrative into an unabashedly earnest and wholehearted one.
The Revolutionists grows more expansive in the second half, which isn't an issue for co-founder and Associate Artistic Director Jennifer Eve Thorn, directing. This is something that Olympe briefly hints will happen in the beginning of the second half. Act two is mainly about the conversation that takes place in her home. Almost immediately after act two begins, Thorn stages sequences that go back and forth between Olympe's abode and a deadly prison. Without rushing the pacing, Thorn covers a lot of ground in less than 60 minutes of stage time.
Thorn's creative and technical teams capture the 18th century, while also inserting some modern influences. Jennifer Brawn Gittings' costumes and Missy Bradstreet's wigs give each "revolutionist" a distinct look. Emily Small's set feels like the kind of place a struggling writer would live in around the 1700s. Her funny projections are in check with Thorn's 21st century sensibilities. Rachel LeVine's audio includes a few reoccurring pieces of music, but the sound effects she uses, such as slow breathing and the noises of angry mobs, really leave a lasting impression. When situations are at their most serious, Sherrice Mojgani's lighting brings an unusually ethereal quality to the events that take place onstage.
The play about powerful individuals fortunately stars three actresses who project confidence, strength, and moments of self-doubt. Glover, Monya and Ginn handle the numerous comedic and serious situations in realistic and relatable ways. Marie isn't meant to be quite as noble as the other notable protagonists. Be that as it may, Gorell-Getz is given opportunities to be spoiled and oblivious, with moments of empathy worthy of respect. She refrains from turning the controversial queen into just an easy target for laughs.
Featuring a combination of anger, sadness and humorous prose, Moxie's staging is nothing short of an impassioned experience. Gunderson reminds theatregoers to stand tall, no matter how bleak life becomes.
Moxie Theatre presents The Revolutionists through June 25, 2017, Sundays through Saturdays at 6663 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego. Tickets are $30.00 and can be purchased online at www.moxietheatre.com or by phone at 1-858-598-7620.