A playwright. A monarch. A rebel. An assassin. Historically, three of the four women depicted in contemporary writer Lauren Gunderson’s play The Revolutionists, set in the 18th century, probably never interacted with one another in real life, while the fourth woman never existed at all.
The Lompoc Civic Theatre’s new production of Gunderson’s show opens with Olympe de Gouges (played by Anne Ramsey) sitting at a desk with a quill in hand. She was a real playwright who advocated for social reform during the French Revolution and was executed in 1793—the same year that Marie Antoinette (Rachel Mello) and Charlotte Corday (played by understudy Michelle Pittenger during the show I attended) also faced the guillotine.
But Gouges doesn’t meet those two figures, in the play that is, before first speaking with Marianne Angelle (Kimberly Washinton), the sole fictional character Gunderson created for The Revolutionists.
Angelle is a composite character meant to represent several women who took part in the Haitian Revolution. As I read this tidbit in the show’s program, prior to the start of the performance I attended, I couldn’t help but be reminded of other amalgamation characters in historical retellings, like the fictional scientist Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson) in the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, or Cmdr. Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) in Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic Dunkirk.
I wonder how many audience members at the show I saw in late April assumed that Angelle was a real person because I definitely wouldn’t have thought twice about it without reading the program. There’s plenty of time to read up on the show beforehand because admission includes a three-course dinner (two of which are served before the first act begins).
My advice to attendees of future performances of The Revolutionists is arrive with an empty stomach and be prepared to stay awhile (dinner service starts around 5:30 p.m., and the two-act show ended around 10 p.m. the night I attended).
The production quality of the show—with its four leads brought to life by a stellar cast as the four women provide meta commentary on their roles in the French Revolution and their inevitable fates—truly reflects a passion its director (Pittenger, who also played Corday marvelously as the character’s understudy) and crew obviously had for the source material.
Equally worth noting is the phenomenal French cuisine-inspired dinner included with admission (I was almost tempted to write a standalone review on the food in the Sun’s Eats section).
Upon reserving seats for the show, hopeful attendees have a handful of dinner offerings to consider, with two appetizer options (garden salad or French onion soup) and three main courses (beef bourguignon, coq au vin, and ratatouille) to choose from. Appetizers and main course are served prior to the show, while dessert and coffee are available to guests at intermission.
Being severely biased toward chicken-based entrees (if you don’t believe me, find me on Instagram, @chicken_strips_caleb_gets), I had to go with the coq au vin, which I absolutely did not regret. It was my first time trying the traditional French dish and, based on how good it was, I know it won’t be the last.
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is also a big fan of french fries and French toast, and took four years’ worth of French classes in high school. Send comments in English, French, or Pig Latin to [email protected].