Four fierce women take the stage at Rubber City Theatre in “The Revolutionists,” a dramedy written by Lauren Gunderson, the most-produced living playwright in America.
Under Katie Wells’ direction, the acting is strong and the story is energizing in Rubber City’s new, permanent stage space at WhiteSpace Creative at 243 Furnace St. in Akron.
In this story, which takes place in 1793 during the Reign of Terror in Paris, playwright Olympe De Gouge, assassin Charlotte Corday, former queen Marie Antoinette and Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle come together to try to quell the extreme danger of the revolution, which is no longer one for the people.
In this story, activist and feminist de Gouges (Chelsea Cannon) is trying to write a new play about liberte, equalite and sororite. As she begins her writing struggle, playwright Gunderson creates a conceit where de Gouges imagines the other three female characters and also inserts herself as a character in the story.
Fiery Caribbean spy and abolitionist Marianne Angelle (Chennelle Bryant-Harris) bursts into de Gouges’ home demanding that she write an anti-slavery pamphlet for her. They’re joined by Marie Antoinette, portrayed in a big pink gown and high wig by Kyla Williger, who at first seems only fluffy, seeking a rewrite on her bad press. But this actress ultimately shows that the ousted queen has a brain in her head.
Finishing the quartet is the youngest, most daring woman — fearless assassin Charlotte Corday, played by newcomer Jane Medoro. She has one mission only: to murder Jacobin journalist Jean-Paul Marat, and she’s willing to die to do it.
Bryant-Harris offers both sass and pathos as Caribbean revolutionary Angelle, the wisest of the four who serves as their conscience. The play includes mournful moments of song as key characters are captured and sent to the guillotine, darkly lit by Rob Wachala.
Cannon’s de Gouges is clearly conflicted between writing in solitude and writing about the real, ugly things she observes during the Revolution. The inspiring Angelle tells the playwright that her words are indeed dangerous, and to write about the world as she wants it to be.
“It’s called the Reign of Terror, not the Reign of Freedom to Disagree,” Angelle reminds her.
Gunderson’s script has numerous laughs, including self-referential lines about writers’ egoism and de Gouges’ refusal to admit she has writer’s block. The show runs through Sept. 22. For reservations, see www.rubbercitytheatre.com or call 234-252-0272.
Six years after I first saw the national tour of the subversively funny “The Book of Mormon,” the show is as crazy, witty and hilariously profane as ever. The musical, which won nine Tonys, follows two naïve young Mormon missionaries as they attempt to share the Book of Mormon with Ugandan villagers stricken by war, poverty and AIDS.
The show, playing at the Connor Palace through Sunday, features Cleveland-area native Jordan Matthew Brown as lovable loser Elder Cunningham, who has a penchant for lying and idolizes his missionary partner, Elder Price. Cunningham is the big dork who contrasts humorously with golden boy Price, portrayed by Liam Tobin.
Brown, a graduate of Orange High School and the Chagrin Falls Performing Arts Academy, has a great, goofy grin that makes his Cunningham immediately lovable.
Nerdy Cunningham is way too eager to make a best friend in Price. Brown makes it clear that even when Elder Cunningham fabricates stories, he does so out of the goodness of his heart to help stop others from doing terrible things.
Cunningham is the only one able to reach the Ugandan villagers where they really are in their lives. But he still suffers a crisis of conscience, with everyone from hobbits to Yoda popping up in his head to chastise him for his lying in the wacky “Making Things Up Again.”
Part of the beauty of this very smart show, by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and “Avenue Q” creator Robert Lopez, is that each time you see it, different elements of humor come to the forefront. That includes multiple hilarious references to other musicals, including one borrowed straight from “The Sound of Music.”
Casey Nicholaw’s remarkable choreography includes the sacrilegious “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (you'll find out what this awful phrase means when you see the show), performed with perverse glee as the dance seamlessly incorporates a crude-yet-storytelling gesture into a very peppy song. Also outrageous is the huge production number “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” which features devils and skeletons morphing into an over-the-top tap line.
The show has tons of humor and plenty of heart. Akron native Monica Patton, featured in the ensemble, has the show’s most revelatory line, about the earthly paradise of Salt Lake City being just a metaphor. It’s a fun moment that shows the Ugandans have been humoring the Mormon elders all along, yet the show still carries a meaningful message about faith. For tickets, see www.playhousesquare.org or call 216-241-6000.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj