Wednesday, November 10, 2021

'Revolutionists' tells four women's roles in French Revolution

From left: Charlotte (Katherine Hamilton), Olympe (Gabriella Goldstein), Marianne (Kimberly Ridgeway) and Marie-Antoinette (Olga Molina) all have their own motives. (Scott Lasky photo)  

Seeing Lauren Gunderson's "The Revolutionists" might send Palo Alto Players audiences scurrying to find information about the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. 

Based on four actual women and set in 1793, the play is talky yet seems to assume that everyone remembers high school classes in world history.

It opens with a playwright, Olympe de Gouges (Gabriella Goldstein), trying to come up with an idea for a play that won’t send her to the guillotine. In Gunderson’s sly reference to “Les Miserable,” Olympe says a musical will never work.

Her musings are interrupted when Marianne Angelle (Kimberly Ridgeway) pounds on the door seeking refuge. She’s a Haitian spy who’s opposed to French-imposed slavery in the Caribbean.

Yet another sudden arrival is Charlotte Corday (Katherine Hamilton), who’s intent on martyrdom for stabbing Jean-Paul Marat in his bath.

Finally Marie-Antoinette (Olga Molina) flounces in. She’s just trying to save her head.

Only one survives.

Directed by Tessa Corrie, overacting and fast talking prevail except for Ridgeway as Marianne, the spy. Her character remains calm, but she sometimes speaks so softly that she’s hard to hear. 

The flexible set is by Scott Ludwig with sound by Jeff Grafton and effective lighting by Edward Hunter. Lisa Claybaugh deserves kudos for the period costumes that reflect each character’s place in society.

Running about two hours with one intermission, “The Revolutionists” will continue through Nov. 21 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. A recording will be streamed on demand from Nov. 18 to 21.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit