Black Box Theatre’s ‘The Revolutionists’ is ‘cutting-edge’ humor, history


Playwright Lauren Gunderson has taken delightful liberties with history to create a funny and thought-provoking show that is the perfect way for Las Cruces audiences to celebrate Women’s History Month at Black Box Theatre (BBT).

This is the bloody middle of the French Revolution (1789-99) that started the year George Washington was inaugurated as America’s first president and ended with the fall of the French monarchy a decade later. During the 1793-94 Reign of Terror alone, hundreds of thousands of people were arrested as enemies of the revolution, thousands died in prison and thousands more lost their heads – including the king and queen.

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was, of course, that queen - the last queen of France before the revolution. She is wonderfully portrayed by Karen Buerdsell, who continues to distinguish herself as one of Las Cruces’ best, hardest working and most versatile actors.

Marianne Angelle is a fictional free black woman who is fighting for the rights and freedom of her people on the island of Saint Domingue (Haiti), a French colony, 1659-1804. Lisa Taylor, who plays Angelle, appeared in BBT’s production of “Radium Girls” and in ToadHall Production’s “Murderess.” In “The Revolutionaries,” she creates a passionate and deeply interesting character who drives the action of the play as she represents the fearless women who were leaders and soldiers in the Haitian Rebellion (1791-1804).  

Charlotte Corday (1768-93) was the real-life assassin of Jean-Paul Marat, a radical politician during the French Revolution. It is remarkable that Penny Bever, who plays Corday, is a ninth grader who already has extensive stage credits, including performances with BBT, A Children’s Theatre of the Mesilla Valley and the Theatre Department at New Mexico State University. Her portrayal of Corday is both vulnerable and powerful and is another strong credit in her theatre resume.

Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793), played by Brigitte Kearns, was a French playwright and political activist who fought for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery in France and its colonies. It is her pen that brings together Corday, Angelle and Marie Antoinette in their search for writings – and rewrites – that will tell their stories and secure their places in history. In one of her first stage roles, Kearns brings out the many levels of this compelling and challenging historical figure in a worthy and memorable performance.

A fifth character in the play is Madam la Guillotine, the instrument of death that looms upstage center throughout the production, thanks to scenic designer Joshua Taulbee.

Kudos to Autumn Gieb, another of Las Cruces’ finest actors, for her work as director, and to crew members Peter Herman (technical director), Bekah Taulbee (lighting design), Gieb and Melissa Muñoz Chavez (costume design), who recently retired after a brilliant career teaching theatre at Mayfield High School, Naomi B. Gomez (makeup design), Darlene DeMondo (properties design) and Benjamin Bever, Charlie Bever and Makena Taylor (backstage crew).

Remaining performances of “The Revolutionists,” at BBT, 430 N. Main St. downtown, are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, March 17-18 and 24-25; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 19 and 26; and 7 p.m. Thursday, March 23.

Tickets are $15 regular admission, $12 for students and seniors over age 65 and $10 for all tickets for the Thursday, March 23, performance only.

Tickets are on sale at the theatre, by phone at 575-523-1223 and online at