Until they succeed, revolutionaries are often dismissed as unrealistic dreamers. So it’s appropriate that Adam Mervis’ terrific new play, The Revolutionaries, is full of people’s descriptions of their dreams, both the sleep kind and the aspirational kind. But unlike many plays that use dreams as a device, Mervis’ smart, funny script never takes the easy route. And even when they’re talking about these intangibles, the actors are so strong in their roles that the audience readily goes along with them. The engaging first-level plot of The Revolutionaries tracks what happens when two childhood friends get into the cutthroat energy business. One of them, Chevy, has invented solar panels that are inexpensive but highly efficient and will allow users to go off the power grid. Given a wonderfully apt Peter Pan-like boyishness by Robert Yang, Chevy seems naïve and idealistic with his wild dreams of changing the world and giving power to the people. By contrast, Frank acts the part of the hard-nosed, savvy businessman who builds the new power company with money from his own trust and know-how from his prior career on Wall Street. Brought to intense, jumpy life by Mervis, Frank brims with big plans that he refuses to see thwarted by consideration for others. As a result, his relationship with his girlfriend Jean (the excellent Desirée Matthews) deteriorates rapidly, since getting the company off the ground is more difficult than he anticipated and she misses the life they left behind in New York.
Once the little company’s fortunes do turn for the better, it’s not long before the “practical” Frank begins to seem out of touch, drunk on power and endlessly spouting aphorisms about leadership. And the sweetness of success lasts for just a short time: part of what makes The Revolutionaries so propulsive and entertaining is Mervis’ ability to evoke the non-stop, roller coaster feel of working in a start-up. The first act is nearly perfect in terms of pace and suspense leading up to the intermission. The second act is slightly weighed down with a few too many subplots, but the writing doesn’t lose its edge and the actors delve more deeply into their characters.
The Revolutionaries pulls viewers in quickly and keeps them captivated throughout, wondering what will happen next. The cast presents the combination of straightforward interpersonal dramas and serious thought nearly seamlessly under Megan Marod's intelligent direction. It is a complete package of a quality unusual for the Fringe.