PLAYWRIGHT GUNDERSON SAYS “IT’S A POWERFUL THING TO COME TOGETHER AND LAUGH IN A SCARY TIME” DIRECTOR SUSAN EVANS DIRECTS A STUNNING CAST
The sound of a guillotine dropping and red with blood opens the new season at Town Hall Theatre’s year of “Lost and Found”. THE REVOLUTIONISTS, a new play by Lauren Gunderson, is now on stage at THT through Oct 20th. Gunderson brings four women to the forefront of the French bloodbath in the 1700’s. The remarkable women featured in this outstanding comedy lived at an iconic, and scary, time in history. The story occurs in 1793 Paris, home of the French Revolution, the “Reign of Terror”, and a busy Madame Guillotine. In this era, Gunderson presents a “what if” meeting of four revolutionary women. She says “It’s a powerful thing to come together and laugh in a scary time.” The play’s women characters take us on a gripping ride into the thick of things, determined to bend the course of a revolution run amok.
THT Artistic Director Susan E. Evans brought together an entire all-female creative team and says “ I am excited about THT’s Lost & Found Season - Don’t let the fancy costumes fool you. The four women in this play use contemporary language.” Evans, who also directs the smart four women cast, continues: “mostly a comedy based on real women and real executions, a quartet, a revolutionary dream fugue taking place in the mind - The Revolutionists covers a lot of territory, violence, terrorism, feminism, passion, and sisterhood.”
The stellar Sarah Mitchell plays revolutionary playwright, Olympe de Gouges who is writing a new play. Each of the other woman comes to de Gouges in search of words to inspire rebellion, words to be remembered by, historical truths that rarely come from women. Mitchell is dynamic as de Gouges, who has the immortal power of the written word. Mitchell skillfully communicates “We are women writing this Revolution” with strength and courage yet with her neuroses and madness. This story perfectly matches the tenor of our time with fact, and fiction.
Gunderson puts the audience into the thick of the French Revolution, focused on the men who led it and the women who wanted in. The accomplished Kimberly Ridgeway inspires as Marianne Angelle, the sassy Caribbean revolutionary fighting against the French occupation of her home country and for universal diverse equality. Angelle and de Gouges have great comic timing in the first act. They make fun of each other, like men, yet share a charming fondness. Ridgeway shines in these scenes; she conveys a simple glance or facial expression that steals the scene. Her soul is on fire with revolution and she is committed to making her passion real.
The polished Heather Kellogg gives a elegant performance as real life assassin, Charlotte Corday. Her nicknamed “l’ange de l’assassinat”, the Angel of Assassination, Corday was a young woman with a goal: to remove from France extremist newspaperman Jean-Paul Marat, whom she blamed for the brutality of the Reign of Terror. Kellogg is skilled at bringing rage to her character, who was just about to celebrate her 25th birthday when she did the deed. “This is the ‘Reign of Terror,’ not ‘The Reign of Agree to Disagree’. ”
The marvelous local favorite Suzie Shepard is terrific as Marie-Antoinette. With excellent comic timing and her flair for physical comedy, and decked out in Hope Birdwell’s best costume and wonderful wig, Shepard is hilarious as the ill-fated monarch. But she also brings a depth to the character. Marie is a spoiled aristocrat, who is also a mother and a wife, a woman with her own ideas and thoughts in a world where women’s thoughts and ideas aren’t valued. Cheers to Gunderson for writing the character as an actual person instead of a caricature of privilege, and to Shepard for finding the balance between the dark humor and the real woman.
The rapid-fire quick-witted lines between the characters are equally funny in this two-act, two hour play. The fantastic dialogue, and the comedic timing, make the show a black comedy of history and is a success. Town Hall’s production includes an atmospheric set with a mural of women soldiers and with open windows and ramps to doorways designed by the clever Liliana Duque Piñeiro. The mirrored walls add depth and color along with Keira Sullivan’s sensitive lighting, that rings with the color of blood when needed. Birdwell’s stunning costumes and wigs are a treat of color and French femmes de la resistance. Props by Debbie Shelley include feather pens, French chairs and sashes for Angelle. Stage manager Amanda Boyan and assistant director Madison Gerringer make it an easy transition from writer’s space to prison gallows. Sound designer Lana Palmer kept the Guillotine and sounds of revolutionists in the distance and Evans’ direction is sharp as always.
Town Hall’s production of THE REVOLUTIONISTS might come off as foolhardy, but Gunderson helps us see the “might have beens” of this dark moment in history, if only the voices of women had been truly heard, and their concerns taken seriously. The “me too” era rings strong in the 1700’s and in 2018 even if three of these entertaining women lose their heads. Women's rights and the right to be heard are loud and clear in Gunderson's words. The winning Town Hall cast, superbly directed by Evans, ensures that all the historic elements click neatly into place. Next up at THT is the West Coast Premiere of GREAT EXPECTATIONS opens November 29th. IN THE WINGS, Town Hall’s new staged readings series, is Monday, November 12th, featuring only new works. The new musical WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN opens May 30, 2019. But, in the meantime, women on front lines of a Revolution you need join! this war is a GO SEE.
Town Hall Theatre Presents
A Comedy, A Quartet, A Dream Fugue, A True Story
By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Susan E Evans
THROUGH October 20th
Town Hall Theatre Company
3535 School Street, Lafayette, CA 94549.
Running Time: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
TICKETS 925.283.1557 www.TownHallTheatre.com
Photos by Jay Yamada
Video Credit: @Lana Palmer
THT will host Special Events for THE REVOLUTIONISTS:
LIT UP at Town Hall, a literary salon
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Theatre Club, post-show talk-backs
with complimentary wine.
Friday, October 5, and Friday, October 19, 2018.
audiences will enjoy THT’s full bar and entertainment
in the lobby one hour before performances.
All female cast and
Playwright Lauren Gunderson,
Director Susan E. Evans
Assistant Director @Madison Madison Celeste Gerringer
Hope Birdwell (Costumes)
Keira Sullivan (Lighting Design)
Liliana Duque Pinero (Scenic Design)
Lana Palmer (Sound Design)
Debbie Shelley (Property Design)
Amanda Boyan (Stage Manager)
Michelle Teeman Hoselton (Production Manager)
The cast of female actors
who bring this comedy dream fugue to life!
Kimberly Ridgeway as Marianne
Heather Kellogg Baumann as Charolette Corday
Suzie Shepard as Marie Antoinette
Sarah Mitchell as Olympe de Gouges
ABOUT TOWN HALL THEATRE COMPANY
Established in 1944 as the Dramateurs, Town Hall Theatre turned 74 this year, making it the oldest continuously active theatre in Contra Costa County. Town Hall Theatre was awarded Best Theatre Troupe 2016 in Diablo Magazines, Best of The East Bay, and is the past recipient of numerous Shellie Awards, and four regional 2016 Theatre Bay Area Awards.
THT is also home to an extensive children’s educational program, twice voted the “Best Children’s Theatre Company” by Bay Area Parent Magazine. THT’s 102-year old historical building is managed by the Lafayette Association (LIA).
Town Hall Theatre Company is located at 3535 School Street, in Lafayette, CA 94549. The Box Office is open Tuesday through Friday, 4:00 to 6:00PM, and Saturday, 2:00-4:00 pm, and can be reached at 925.283.1557. Information is also available at www.TownHallTheatre.com.