I <3 REVOLUTION
nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
August 12, 2012
In the "Dear Audience" note for I <3 Revolution, appearing in the 16th New York International Fringe Festival, the three co-writers exclaim, "What you are about to see is a staging of our anger and confusion, and our utter glee in the act of creation," and I immediately became worried. Shows voicing the writer's anger and confusion often become nothing more than an indulgent rant on a soapbox, masquerading as a play.
But over the next 75 minutes, the three ladies in I <3 Revolution did nothing of the sort. In fact, they made me laugh almost nonstop for that 75 minutes, with a clever script, an ingenious format, and sharp performances—all while sneakily touching on all of the issues that made them angry and confused.
I <3 Revolution is set up almost as a town-hall meeting / seminar run by its 3 performer/writers, Alexandra Panzer, Tara Schuster, and Alice Winslow. The entire show is direct address to the audience, demolishing "the 4th wall"—which is incredibly effective and comes off feeling very original. Quickly we find out that nothing is as it seems and these three women are taking the entire audience hostage until they explain and recruit us to join their revolution and subsequent new world order. With the help of their trusty but (purposely) underappreciated assistant, Michael, they tell us their goals, introduce the story of their deity, "Mother" (whose name is accompanied by an aggrandizing hand-gesture every time it's spoken, to much hilarity), ask us for money, attempt to mug us, do a spot-on generic commercial parody, and show a particularly hilarious "5 Steps to Prepare for the Revolution" instructional video.
The script manages to simultaneously feel all-over-the-map (in a zany, spontaneous, good way), while being very tightly performed and structured. Pirronne Yousefzadeh's direction deftly navigates the performers through their "planned" and "unplanned" moments. However, it's the chemistry and skill of the 3 leads that makes the show exceptional. Each brings such a distinct comic energy and style. Panzer is the flighty one; late to the meeting because "it felt like a Thursday," eager to please but often picked on by the others. Schuster is the unstable, feisty fireplug; often threatening the audience. Winslow is the even-keeled, organized one; ordering the audience around, but always with a smile, assuring us they she really does like us. Each plays her different style expertly, but they are constantly in perfect sync with one another.
The true achievement, however, is that through all of this chaos and hilarity, they hit on their true agenda; and they do it almost subliminally. The most obvious is Michael, their "assistant." He's an actor who has just moved to NY and this is his first job. They point out that he's there doing the only thing he's good at: doing their bidding and looking cute in shorts. They constantly marginalize him, never allowing him to get a word or opinion in; he's basically a piece of meat. It's absolutely hilarious throughout, yet it points to the gender issues that have plagued women for years (it should also be mentioned that Chris Lowell plays the wearied, constantly-battered Michael brilliantly). They throw in little pieces of injustice: a female student being called a slut by a congressman—and because it is literally a throwaway line, it ends up being all the more affecting.
Their biggest gripe, referring back to their Dear Audience note, is that they were angered that a large majority of theater is written and directed by men (usually for men), but I <3 Revolution is a testament to moving away from that. They achieve their goal. They are sharp, hilarious writers and performers who never once have to resort to exploiting their sexuality for a laugh. Their concept and execution are clever and original. They say important things without sounding preachy, veiling them in high-level comedy. Though, a final word of warning: Just don't call them cute…unless you mean it.