Lights up on a pool party. The floor is cotton candy pink and lime green, and drawings of palm trees swelter on the media screens above either side of the stage. The floor is covered in giant, inflatable pool toys—flamingos, ice cream cones and unicorns. What could be more innocent?
“Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.” openly discusses sex, objectification and violence in order to address what it means to be a woman in a society imbued with toxic misogyny. Each of the series’ vignettes depicts an instance of sexism; a few satirize, while others use painful and serious metaphors. Men only appear on-stage in two scenes: in one, a man walks on, is told to leave, and immediately turns around and does so; in the other, at the end of the show, a man joins the frenzied pool party, adding to the shouting and overlapping conversations.
The cast successfully depicts a range of characters, and the predominantly female actors emphasize the absurdity inherent in the constructs of femininity. In the first scene, a conversation between two lovers, the dialogue and body language make clear that we are watching a heterosexual couple; however, both actors are female. The situation begins to shift — from conventional male character telling the woman what he wants to do to her body to the female character telling the man what she wants to do to his — and demonstrates that either character can take control in the situation, regardless of their gender (in case this was not already obvious from the presence of female actors playing both roles).
This scene was also notable because both characters, though acting as if sitting across from each other at a table, face the audience throughout. The audience thus assumes the role of both characters, as the actors aim their dialogue at us. This conceit is incredibly effective in making the audience feel involved and uncomfortable. Clearly, the woman is not originally happy about what the man is saying to her; the audience feels both her discomfort and the guilt of making her feel unsafe. Ultimately, the audience receives the message that sex should be reciprocal, and that we cannot continue treating women as passive objects to be acted upon.
Throughout the show, all of the actors remain onstage, lounging on pool floats and watching each scene with sympathetic eyes. This silent chorus emphasizes the solidarity of these women who, in the last scene, propose a revolution. During each scene change, the actors move various pool inflatables across the stage to set it for the next vignette — and, throughout, say “I’m sorry” profusely and loudly. It’s a small touch I didn’t notice at first, but soon caught on to. So often, women are taught to apologize for everything, even their own presence; these moments ridicule this expectation.
All of the scenes are convincingly acted, and the emotions are both relatable and moving. One particularly shocking vignette began with a topless actor carried, limp, onstage. The two characters carrying her begin pulling a farcical amount of clothes onto her and chastising her seemingly ridiculous behavior in their store: stripping naked and lying on the ground with her legs spread next to the aisle filled with watermelons. At first, the whole thing felt strangely funny, though I couldn’t stop looking at the woman on the ground, who stared blankly into space. When she finally begins her monologue, the tone shifts. Women, she says, are expected not only to be constantly available for men’s sexual pleasure, but also to want men to take advantage of their bodies. Her monotone and elegant language contrast the shouting shop employees, who chide her for showing her flab, claiming that “no one asked to see that.” The dichotomy of the sexuality required of a woman, and what is not allowed, came through clearly. At the end of her speech, the woman on the ground turns piercingly to the audience, making us question what we expect from the women around us, who we allow to sexualize their bodies, and what we consider “acceptable” objectification.
The play culminates with the entire cast on stage, screaming, gyrating and pummeling pool inflatables with increasing intensity, ultimately ending in an ensemble collapse. The final dialogue has no background noise or music, which, after the previous frenzy of sound, pulls the audience in. The women quietly concede that “the thought is not enough,” and that the revolution is not coming. “Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.” successfully tackles societal injustice by using both humor and tragedy. Its talented cast lends voice to the voiceless. We may have left the characters resigned to living in oppression, but we leave the theater with a call to action.