Shrewd Productions’ The Revolutionists

This staging of Lauren Gunderson's satire proves the pen is mightier than the guillotine

(l-r) Valoneecia Tolbert, Sarah Marie Curry, Shannon Grounds, and Gricelda Silva (kneeling) (Photo by Errich Petersen)

Olympe de Gouges is an artist with an agenda. In the heart of the French Revolution, she is pushing herself to write a story powerful enough to move the people of France toward an egalitarian democracy. She needs a story that embraces freedom. A story about epic heroism. A story about some badass women. And her timing couldn't be more perfect. Just as Olympe sits down to pen her life's work, three other revolutionary icons – Marianne Angelle, Charlotte Corday, and Marie Antoinette – come barging in with lofty agendas of their own. These ladies of note need a playwright – posthaste! An assassin's last words need to be composed, an elitist monarch with a fondness for wigs looks to do a little posthumous PR, and slaves toiling in Haitian sugar fields thirst for liberty!

Fortunately, Olympe de Gouges is quite the accomplished playwright when it comes to telling stories of revolution, abolition, and feminism. Unfortunately, she is also battling an extreme case of writer's block. At the moment, even the little decisions are too much (at one point, Olympe nearly has an aneurysm over whether or not to use puppets), and the tell-tale wads of crumpled paper under her desk have begun to multiply. As if artistic indecision isn't enough to drive her batty, de Gouges' frustration is exponentially exacerbated as three extremely significant historical figures with A Lot to Say vie for her attention with the passion and purpose of an under-quota canvasser in a Whole Foods parking lot. As each character draws closer to the guillotine's blade, de Gouges must write as she's never written before in order to document and preserve herstory in a world focused primarily on remembering history.

And now you know the plot of The Revolutionists, a thoughtful and utterly delightful take on the importance of telling stories set against an utterly horrific period of French history. Rudy Ramirez directs Shrewd Productions' latest offering, which features a flawless ensemble composed of actors Sarah Marie Curry (whose Olympe de Gouges is equal parts artist and mad scientist), Valoneecia Tolbert (as an extremely engaging, graceful, and quick-to-quip Marianne Angelle), Gricelda Silva (a scrappy and stab-happy Charlotte Corday), and Shannon Grounds (who comically softens Marie Antoinette, taking her from "Let them eat cake!" to "Aren't there any more snacks?"). This extremely entertaining production is rounded out with a minimalist but spot-on set design by Chris Conard and absolutely beautiful period costumes courtesy of Jennifer Rose Davis.

There are many themes running through Shrewd's must-see production, but ultimately, The Revolutionists is a story about the power and importance of telling stories. It's also about how difficult it can be to write them down sometimes, even when your protagonists are literally yelling their character arcs straight into your face. History may be written by the winners of wars, but storytellers and other artists guard the legacies of heroes because they know this to be true: Art can change the world more effectively than the guillotine ever will.

The Revolutionists

Santa Cruz Center for Culture
Through June 24
Run Time: 1 hr., 40 min.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Shrewd Productions
Shrewd Productions' <i>Alabaster</i>
Shrewd Productions' Alabaster
This deeply felt staging of Audrey Cefaly's new play brings us into a home where loss lives to show us when to leave

Robert Faires, March 6, 2020

Shrewd Productions' <i>Jump</i>
Shrewd Productions' Jump
In Charly Evon Simpson's drama, characters caught in the dark currents of grief and depression seek a way through

Robert Faires, Sept. 20, 2019

More Arts Reviews
Theatre Review: <i>King of Hearts</i>
Theatre Review: King of Hearts
Alchemy Theatre’s production full of heart despite sticky story material

Cat McCarrey, June 7, 2024

“A Trajectory of Grief” Traverses Tragedy
“A Trajectory of Grief” Traverses Tragedy
Monica Martinez-Diaz deals with death through digital collage

Cat McCarrey, May 31, 2024

More by T. Lynn Mikeska
Capital T Theatre's <i>Small Mouth Sounds</i>
Capital T Theatre's Small Mouth Sounds
This hilarious and moving production reveals near deafening truths with barely a sound

May 25, 2018

Girls Girls Girls' <i>Broad Ambition</i>
Girls Girls Girls' Broad Ambition
In this improvised musical, the women of this acclaimed troupe take it to the Eighties and take over the workplace

April 27, 2018


Shrewd Productions, Lauren Gunderson, Rudy Ramirez, Sarah Marie Curry, Valoneecia Tolbert, Gricelda Silva, Shannon Grounds, Chris Conard, Jennifer Rose Davis

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle