At the start of Kristoffer Diaz’s new play, #THEREVOLUTION, The Revolution (Brett Ashley Robinson) and The Witness (Mary Tuomanen) present themselves as the energetic, smiling young faces of a sanguine new political movement. “We killed all the people who ruined everything, and then the world got better!” they announce. Also, “we’re sorry” for killing all of those people. But it was necessary.
Their press conference is live-streamed and improvisational. They argue about whether they are “leaders” or not, whether those who died “deserved” it or not, and whether the public’s dissent is understandable, or not.
The question that frames Diaz’s play, receiving its world premier in InterAct’s new theater space at The Drake, is: what would happen if a bunch of early-20-something city-dwelling music-video-watching lower-middle-class variously privileged poorish Americans launched a violent revolution against the state?
There’s no irony in the fact that this set of qualifiers probably describes many people creating the play, and many people in the audience, myself included. It quickly becomes clear that this culture’s at times frivolous and politically aimless character will surely affect the revolution.
It does not take long before idealistic rhetoric is belied by continued killings and increasingly ham-fisted attempts to squash dissent. This is exacerbated when Witness expresses publicly that she’s not Revolution’s “girlfriend” because the revolutionary society has “evolved past girlfriends,” and Revolution introduces a new member of the leadership-not-leadership team: The Muscle (Anita Holland), a thug in the militaristic tradition of a Sandanista or a Hussein. Muscle’s not afraid to call the people “slaves”—“we call things what they are”—and unapologetically exert power.
That revolutions tend to be cyclical reiterations of brutality, and that regime change more often than not clears the way for a different set of thuggish dictators, is not news. As the relationships between these characters take the foreground and the tone of political farce fades into something more like drama, it becomes clear that Diaz has nothing more of substance to add. His characters, who emerged from their bloodbath smiling, trauma-free, and joking frivolously, worked in a farce. They make no sense as central figures in what it appears Diaz wants us to see as a tragedy.
Long rambling speeches come to characterize the piece. The self-contradicting, backtracking, and stream-of-consciousness realizations illuminate the characters’ immaturity and lack of political finesse. But they quickly become a slog to listen through, when I find myself “getting it” far before the scene’s over. Scenes which should be deeply meaningful—like The Witness making her confessions to a handheld camera while in hiding, just sort of mope along. The repetitive language presents an ultimately insuperable challenge, and even the excellent Tuomanen’s final moments on stage fall flat.
Stephanie N. Walters, who plays Aurora, a singularly dippy member of the revolution who comes to prominence towards the end of the piece, takes a single-note approach to the role. Her energy almost never drops, and the message is clear: this character is a vacuous dip with nowhere to progress. This fits into the cosmos of the play, and is believable. [The Drake, 1512 Spruce] January 22-February 14, 2016; interacttheatre.org.