The Revolutionists:” A Fresh & Comedic Tale of Feminism

Reagan Clark, Senior Reporter

I had the privilege of seeing the feminist comedy “The Revolutionists” on the night of April 13. It is a wild comedy based on four women of the French Revolution, showing from March 29 to April 16, 2023 at the Park Square Theatre.

At 7:35 p.m., I rushed into Park Square Theatre, anxiously trying to find my seat. I was already scared I would not like the play because it was set during the French Revolution, and history is not necessarily my thing. I was afraid I would not understand any of the references, and now I was a few minutes late, and everyone in the audience surrounding me seemed to be at least 60 years old. 

The stage was nicely furnished with a chaise lounge, desk and stairs. Then, suddenly, the guillotine falls, and a bright light flashes onto the audience. Olympe exclaims, “That’s not a way to start a comedy!” 

I was now highly intrigued. Written by Lauren Gunderson, “The Revolutionists” tells a story based on four historic women: dethroned queen Marie Antoinette, playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday and former slave-turned-activist Marianne Angelle. In the play, the women work together to fight for equality for women. Of course, these women did not know each other in real life, but their contributions during the French Revolution led Gunderson to tweak history. 

Although the French Revolution is considered one of history’s darkest eras, it is given a comedic spin in “The Revolutionists.” Starting with a ton of witty banter, “The Revolutionists” keep viewers engaged and is responsible for constant uproars of laughter from the audience. Even taking jabs at Broadway production “Hamilton” with the statement, “no one wants a musical about the French Revolution.”

The story begins with Marianne, Charlotte and Marie pleading for some of Olympe’s talented writing. Marianne wanted her to write pamphlets, spreading the word about the need for freedom. Charlotte intended to kill French Revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat and needed last words for when she would ultimately be beheaded at the hands of “madame guillotine.” Finally, the over-the-top Marie, having been recently dethroned, wanted power back and needed Olympe’s writing skills for a rebranding. 

 “The Revolutionists’” humor stems from witty theatrics and the outrageous behavior of its characters, particularly the way Marie Antoinette is entirely a ditz, flourishing a handful of ribbons and constantly saying, “That’s hilaaaaarious!” The play had a great way of switching between character-driven humor and a genuinely severe investigation of violence and the harsh realities of actual women trapped in the middle of a terrible, changing world. 

The characters, especially in the beginning, consistently broke the fourth wall. This was done by discussing creating a play about their lives, which is what all of us in that theater was watching. Charlotte is profound yet plays into the irony by stating, “We’re all in a play someone else is writing.”

The women, who just happened to stumble upon Olympe’s house one day, form a strong bond. So they set out to “show the men how revolutions are done!” 

Charlotte follows through with killing Jean-Paul Marat and is arrested. Although she knew her fate, she deemed it a worthy cause, claiming, “I’m not afraid to die for this.” Soon escorted up to the guillotine, Charlotte is no more. The rest of the women adopt her hero-like mindset, with Marie meeting her fate next. Marie Antoinette is taken in next to pay for all her mistakes as queen. She then also has a meeting with “Madame Guillotine.” Olympe’s pleading for women’s equality is not accepted, and her connection to Marie also gets her condemned. One by one, the audience sees our feminist heroes taken, as each time, a bright light is flashed onto the audience, and the guillotine comes down.

Although the French Revolution took place long ago, issues like racism, poverty, sexism and a lack of faith in the government still exist today, making it relevant even though it is no longer current. A historical connection between modern audiences and the past is made possible by “The Revolutionists.” Although the play causes the audience to progress from laughter to tears, it allows for the discussion of weighty subjects in a way a modern audience can understand.

As the play ended, we were confronted with the women in some spiritual afterlife form. The production breaks the fourth wall for the final time with the women seeing us, seeing the real-life audience at Park Square, and realizing their stories live on. In all of its moments of comedy and sorrow, “The Revolutionists” is the type of play that leaves you hungry to go out and change the world.