Civic Players Inject Humor and Purpose into The Reign of Terror Through “The Revolutionists”

Set in 1793 Paris, the hypocrisy of the French Revolution is on full display in Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists, as presented by Schenectady Civic Players through March 26th. The slogan of the revolution is Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. The latter, brotherhood, certainly leaves out the female half of the populace. And espousing freedom and equality for the men of France also ignores the French slave colonies around the world.  

Jennifer Lefsyk, Kelly Sienkiewicz, Monet Thompson-Young, Laura Darling (Front)
Photo by Jennifer Moak

Gunderson’s script addresses these issues in a self-described “comic but profound” way. The Revolutionists is a crisp script that utilizes humor, often cutting, as well as quick & witty dialogue. It starts with a fictional meeting between four female figures during the Reign of Terror. Three of these are based on real women, including Olympe de Gouges, a playwright and author, Charlotte Corday, a soon-to-be assassin, and the former queen, Marie Antoinette. The final character, Marianne Angelle, is fictitious but a composite of multiple figures of the era. 

Laura Darling, Monet Thompson-Young, Jennifer Lefsyk, Kelly Sienkiewicz
Photo by Jennifer Moak

As Olympe, the story’s central figure, Laura Darling’s excellent comedic timing adds to her strength that carries the show forward. Monet Thompson-Young (Marianne) delivers another powerful, emotional performance that she is quickly becoming known for in the Capital District. Jennifer Lefsyk’s Charlotte arrives with a brash, energetic entrance, and she carries that high energy throughout the show. Finally, Kelly Sienkiewicz transforms Marie Antoinette from a figure we’ve been taught to hate into a genuinely likable character. 

Monet Thompson-Young, Jennifer Lefsyk, Laura Darling (Front)
Photo by Jennifer Moak

By and large, the technical elements supported the narrative and messages of the play, aside from some odd overhead lighting in the second scene that was distracting. The music played in scene changes, mostly in French, perfectly fits the mood. The set included a guillotine that loomed over everything, even during comedic moments, reminding us of what was coming for these women. Jennifer Van Iderstyne ably directs the quartet, including blocking that is spot-on, accentuating the dialogue and action.

Though set 230 years ago, the fight of these women for equality and agency is arguably the same fight that women and people of color wrangle with to this day. So, in honor of Women’s History Month, go see this great production of a superb script at Schenectady Civic. Heads will roll if you don’t; well, also if you do!

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