nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
August 14, 2007
Adam Mervis's new play, The Revolutionaries, doesn't quite live up to its potential. This tale of two friends attempting to change the world with the creation of an alternative energy source holds itself back with repetition and loose focus, and the production is marred by a crucial piece of miscasting. Nevertheless, The Revolutionaries holds a lot of promise and could turn into something special with some reworking.
Chevy is an aimless dreamer who is temporarily crashing on the couch of his childhood friend, Frank, a New York investment banker. When Chevy invents a new energy source—lightweight silicon solar panels—that would allow people to become "their own power company," he proposes bringing it to the disenfranchised masses in Africa. Frank, however, sees dollar signs and talks Chevy into setting up shop in their hometown of Miami. Together, they start Mangrove Electric (whose slogan is "Power to the people!") with the express purpose of taking down the status quo.
It's a gutsy premise, and one that Mervis exploits efficiently in several instances. The dominant theme is whether or not Frank and Chevy are going to be revolutionaries or businessmen. Frank's father, Jose, tells him, "in the end the revolutionary always dies." But Frank tries to have it both ways. The company limo runs on vegetable oil, but when it comes time to flex their muscle, Frank uses the tried-and-true method of greasing political palms. When the powers-that-be decide to fight back, they come up with an ingenious plan to undo Mangrove Electric. It's only when Frank is about to declare war that Chevy reminds him, "Revolution doesn't involve money—only ideas."
However, The Revolutionaries stalls due to one too many scenes in which Frank either re-dedicates himself to "the cause," or reiterates that he and Chevy are potentially in over their heads. Repeating such motifs has the effect of making the audience question both Frank's conviction (which may be intentional) and whether or not Mervis knows where his play is going (which I'm pretty sure is not intentional). Another factor is the neglect of a couple of subplots including the growing domestic tension between Frank and his girlfriend, Jean, and the long-standing axe Frank has to grind with his father. More attention to these characters and their storylines could very well help flesh The Revolutionaries out.
Director Megan Marod does the best she can under these circumstances, but the play's numerous scenes and repetitive exposition eventually tell on her. There are good performances, however, from Rob Yang as Chevy, Desiree Matthews as Jean, Carlos Molina as Jose, and Brad Frazier, in the underwritten role of Reney, the office's hick janitor. All four give The Revolutionaries whatever urgency it has. Mervis's performance as Frank, on the other hand, doesn't match the others. He doesn't possess the technique or expressiveness of his castmates, and unfortunately looks outclassed by them at every turn.
I applaud Mervis's ambition, however, and hope he will continue to work on this piece. Like I said before, The Revolutionaries holds a lot of promise, and it would be a shame if this production were the end of the line for it.