What’s so funny about Reign of Terror anyway?
Is a family’s descent into madness, drug addiction and abuse really a laughing matter?
And do disgruntled young men normally start singing as they march toward war, drugs, and dead-end relationships?
Just questions to everyone. But playwrights have long known that humor and music are sometimes necessary to help audiences navigate difficult emotional minefields.
So three upcoming plays from Gainesville will invite viewers to step out of their own comfort zone and into dark comedies that attempt to put the human experience in different angles.
The first is The Hippodrome’s production “The Revolutionists,” which runs from April 29 to May 15. This is Lauren Gunderson’s satirical version of four women caught up in the bloody aftermath of the French Revolution.
A woman assassinates the infamous Marat in her bathtub. One is a Haitian rebel with her own ideas of independence. The third is a feminist playwright trying to break into a male-dominated field. And, finally, the condemned Marie Antionette.
“It’s funny until it’s not,” says Hippodrome Artistic Director Stephanie Lynge. “It’s about four women who have the courage to stand up for what they believe in, whether it’s good or bad.”
“The Revolutionists” is finally making its way to the Hippodrome stage after a long Covid delay. “We tried to do this last January but were interrupted by a false positive covid test,” Lynge said. “We love this play and everyone was determined to stage it.
“The Reign of Terror was not a good time to be a woman,” she continued. “These characters are based on real women who have been there, but this is not meant to be a history lesson. It is an exploration of their spirit and courage.
For times and ticket prices, see the Hippodrome’s webpage at www.thehipp.org.
On May 13, the Acrosstown Repertory Theater will premiere Tracy Lett’s comedy-drama “August: Osage County.” Through May 29, the play traces the breakdown of an Oklahoma family after the disappearance of the father, leaving a mother on pills and three estranged sisters to try to put the pieces back together.
“August” is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that has been adapted into a critically acclaimed film. And art director Jahnathan Nixon, whose previous experience as a director has been mostly in children’s theatre, admitted: “I was a little scared to get into it. What if I don’t do him justice?
As for using humor to delve into family tragedy, Nixon said “it deals with so many heavy topics that it’s almost impossible to get through it without the relief of laughter.”
Due to the weight of the subject matter, Nixon said the ART hired a mental health and wellness consultant to work with the cast and crew. “If you want to experience an immersive play about sexual assault, mental health and addiction, and if you’re ready to step out of your comfort zone, do us a favor.”
For more information on showtimes and ticket prices, see the ART webpage at www.acrosstown.org.
Also on May 13, the Gainesville Community Playhouse will premiere “American Idiot,” which will run until June 12.
It is an adaptation of Green Day’s 2004 Grammy-winning electric rock album of the same name.
“American Idiot” follows the experiences of three young suburban men, Johnny, Will and Tunny, who follow their own difficult paths after realizing their generation has been cut off from the American dream.
Director Dan Christophy says “American Idiot” is a marked departure from the genre of large-set Broadway musical that is standard fare at GCP.
“It’s a tribute to disillusioned young people and what they perceive as the media basically feeding them stuff about war and politics that may not be true,” he said.
Although released almost 20 years ago, Christophy adds that it’s “exactly the perfect time to do it, given the wars and administrations we’re dealing with again.”
“This is a lost generation, and right now every 20-year-old is part of a lost generation,” he said. “The message still hits home because it keeps coming back and repeating itself over and over again.”
For ticket prices and times, see the GCP webpage at www.gcplayhouse.org.