Sunday, April 25, 2021

"The Revolutionists" streaming from Lyric Arts

This morning I watched my third streaming Lauren Gunderson play in a week. Last week I watched Steppingstone Theatre's I and You and Jungle Theater's collaboration on Lauren's newest play The Catostrophist (the latter available through May 2, click here for info on both). Today I had the pleasure of watching Lyric Arts's first show since January 2020 - The Revolutionists, recently filmed on their Anoka stage. Like many of Lauren's plays, it tells a fictionalized story of well-known (or should be well-known) women from history with modern language and sensibility, and is funny, smart, poignant, and relevant. If you miss live theater and/or Lyric Arts' popcorn-scented Main Street Stage, don't miss this show (available through May 2 only)!
The Revolutionists imagines the meeting of three historical women all killed (spoiler alert) in the French Revolution in 1793 and a character inspired by real-life women of the era. Feminist playwright Olympe de Gouges (Alyson Enderle) opens the play struggling to write a play (creating some delightfully meta moments). She meets a free Black woman from Haiti fighting for the freedom of her people (Dana Lee Thompson), a would-be assassin Charlotte Corday (Kiko Laureano), and the deposed Queen of France Marie Antoinette (Courtney Vonvett), all of whom inspire her writing in some way. The women discuss freedom, art, politics, activism, and family in a refreshingly modern way with intentional anachronisms and much humor, despite the darkness of the situation. All four of the actors bring much humanity and specificity to their roles, and work well together in various combinations of pairs and groups.

Courtney Vonvett, Kiko Laureano,
Alyson Enderle, and Dana Lee Thompson
The streaming show feels very much like a play, even though the cast reveals in an interview on Facebook that scenes were filmed out of order. The simple and elegant set on Lyric's stage features words covering the floor, a door with no walls, papers gently floating in the background, and a period appropriate fainting couch and desk. The women are costumed in full skirts and wigs (including Marie Antoinette's iconic wide-skirted-tall-wigged look), with lighting and sound effects just like real theater (costume design by Samantha Fromm Haddow, lighting design by Shannon Elliot, and sound design Julie Zumsteg). Director Hannah Weinberg-Goerger has created a compelling story and character study, well translated to the virtual space by videoographer/editor Ian Pirner.

Lauren Gunderson is one of America's most-produced living playwrights of recent years, and The Revolutionists is another good example of why. A smart, funny, modern play that shines the light on real historical women and speaks to issues of today. Lyric Arts has put together a fantastic all-female cast and mostly female team to create this wonderful pandemic production. It feels like a year into this virtual theater thing, #TCTheater companies are really figuring out how to make it work and produce engaging new work despite the limitations. Hopefully we'll get back to live in-person theater again soon, but I'm certain these newly learned skills will not go to waste and might even improve how we do things in the future.

Stream The Revolutionists on-demand for $30 per household, now through May 2. The runtime is just under two hours, with the option to pause the video at the optional intermission. Watch it at 6:30 in the morning like I like to do, or as a matinee, or a late show.