- Jonathan Pitts
Revolution and Rebellion a farce at Oil Lamp
he Revolutionists is the 3rd show in a row I've seen that includes different takes on protests, rebellion, and revolutions. This one is a grand farce about the French Revolution and features an all-female cast of 4 women (Hannah Hammel, Noelle Klyce, Ksa Curry, and Lisa Dawn), directed by Elizabeth Mazue Levin and the script is written by Lauren Gunderson.
After a visual and non-verbal prelude, the play begins with Olympic De Gouges (Hannah Hammel) a playwright speaking to us in direct address about what's happening in the world of the play. When Marianne Angelle (Noelle Klyce), a rebel rouser, enters the stage asking for the playwright to write her a good speech to speak in public. During their scene, they also speak presentationally to the audience, and I was unclear if they were talking to us, a wall or windows. But after this scene, this technique faded away after another one or two scenes, until the end of the show. I'd have preferred that it be in the beginning and the end, or throughout the whole piece.
The funny script has plenty of fun meta jokes about theatre. The script also has some good points about the stakes of rebellion and protests, as well as how people change or don't during repression when the regime or the crowd is coming after them.
All 4 actors were fun, skillful, and had some nice moments. Lisa Dawn as Marie-Antoinette gives the funniest female Non-Equity comedy performance I've seen since back in the day when Alexandra Billings used to read the boards of Chicago area theatres. Hannah Hammel, as the playwright, did a nice job, but her character seemed more like an egotistical and insecure actor rather than a narrow minded and obsessive writer. Also Hannah and Noelle's scenes with each other didn't really connect for me. It felt more like they were talking at each other and not with each other. But that doesn't seem to happen in any of the other different permutations of the 4 actors being onstage. Ksa as Charlotte Corday, the woman who kills a famous French nobleman in a bathtub, has the most fun when she gets to charge into moments of proposed violence. An odd moment though is that one of the characters asks Charlotte why she is so loud, and in that moment Ksa was the least loud person in the scene.
The costumes by Emily N. Brink were good. The lighting by Trey Brazeal's best work was the beheading tableaux. The make up was good, especially on Marie-Antoinette, which was great, as was her wig done by stylist Karen Propcopio, so I wanted more make-up to further create the characters they're playing.
The direction was functional and had some nice visual imagery and tableaux, especially during the executions. The stage set designed by Liz Hadden is limited and the director and the cast seemed to get all they could out of the space, but they didn't rise about it, as at points they seemed hemmed in by it.The stage manager Reina McGonigle did a nice job keeping everything going.
My only real complaint was since they sang a few moments during jokes about musical rebellions, that as they also joked about puppetry to show rebellion, I really wanted a scene done with puppets. Bringing it up and not doing it made it kind of like Checkov's Puppet for me.
Oil Lamp Theater has been active for 11 years, a lot of it in Glenview. It's great to see their passion and commitment to keep the theatre going, especially during and post Covid. Their happy audience on opening night was a nice mix of young people to senior citizens and everyone had a good time, so Oil Lamp is clearly serving their audiences. I'd just like to see them go a little further and take some more chances to bring the best out of their work.
The Revolutionists runs Thursdays through most Sundays until April 30, 2023 at Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Road in Glenview, IL. For tickets and information go to https://oillamptheater.org/calendar/the-revolutionists-2/
For more reviews go to TheatreInChicago.com