Local theater fans who enjoy listening to Kelly Sienkiewicz and Jennifer Lefsyk belt out a classic show tune will just have to wait.
This month they’re busy doing a straight play at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse, although Lauren Gunderson’s 2016 work, “The Revolutionists,” is far from your typical Broadway fare.
In it, Sienkiewicz plays Marie Antoinette and Lefsyk is Charlotte Corday, and joining them as the Schenectady Civic Players celebrate Women’s History Month is Laura Darling as Olympe de Gouges and Monet Thompson-Young as Marianne Angelle. Jen Van Iderstyne is directing the show, which opens Friday and runs for two weeks through March 26.
“It’s a comedy, but at the same time there are some very serious moments, and that makes the funny parts even funnier,” said Sienkiewicz, who has recently starred in two musicals, “She Loves Me,” at Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs last fall, and in “9 to 5: The Musical,” at the Schenectady Light Opera Company in 2020.
“When I read the script I really fell in love with it. I love that it’s a story about women, and it’s only the second non-musical I’ve ever done. I’ve always thought of myself as a singer who acts, but I’ve been wanting to do more straight plays and now I feel like I can do both equally.”
Lefsyk, a 2007 Niskayuna High graduate, has been going back and forth between straight plays and musicals for nearly two decades now, but she was happy to give her singing voice a rest to work with Van Iderstyne in “The Revolutionists.”
“I love the witty banter back and forth, and I loved how the show is set during the French Revolution with four strong, bad-ass women,” said Lefsyk, whose musical credits include the 2016 SLOC production of “Hair.” “It’s funny, it’s poignant, and it made me feel pretty emotional, with sisterhood being the overarching theme. And it’s definitely still relevant today with women still fighting for agency over their own bodies. We have to stick with each other, and seeing how March is Women’s History Month makes it even more meaningful.”
While even the most casual history buff is familiar with Marie Antoinette’s story — she was guillotined on Oct. 16, 1793 — the other three women aren’t quite so famous.
Lefysk’s character, Charlotte Corday, was the woman who killed French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat, while de Gouges, played by Darling, was a French playwright and political activist. Marianne Angelle, meanwhile, played by Thompson-Young, is fictional but a composite character representing a number of black revolutionary women from that time period.
“I’m really not that much of a history buff, but I did a little digging and learned something about what she went through in her life,” Sienkiewicz said of Marie Antoinette. “I wanted to focus on what the play told me, but I think a lot of people will laugh at her because of the funny spin we put on it. But at the same time she is likable and very nice.”
Corday was also guillotined, a few months before Marie Antoinette, for stabbing Marat to death. One of the more extreme French revolutionaries, Marat had played a key role in the political purge of a French family that Corday regarded as friends.
“She is a young assassin, somewhat hardened by righteousness, and like the other women in the show she had her strengths and her weaknesses,” Lefsyk said of Corday. “We actually did some table work where Jennifer [Van Iderstyne] had us look at the history of our character. I wanted to know more about why she wanted to get involved in the revolution, and then what took her to that next step, murder.”
Sienkiewicz, a Catskill native and Ballston Spa resident, said another key element that helped her get out and audition for the show was the opportunity to work with Van Iderstyne.
“I’ve done a lot with SLOC, but this is my first show with Schenectady Civic, and I have a lot of friends who told me how they had worked with Jennifer before,” said Sienkiewicz. “They told me, ‘you have to audition for this,’ because she is phenomenal, and she is.”
Lefsyk has worked with Van Iderstyne a number of times, but on those occasions they were both on stage.
“She and I have acted before, but this is the first time she is directing a show I’ve been in, and I just can’t say enough wonderful things about her,” said Lefsyk. “This has been a great experience and I’m very excited to be a part of the show.”
Darling and Thompson-Young have also been busy actors the last few years.
Darling has often earned praise for her off-stage work in lighting and stage design, and has also written a number of short plays. She was part of the all-women cast in the highly celebrated 2018 production of “Men On Boats” at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts in Averill Park. A Dolgeville native and Siena College grad, Darling was part of Confetti Stage’s 2020 special event celebrating a variety of Shakespeare’s writing at the Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany.
Thompson-Young is a Schenectady resident who made her Schenectady Civic Playhouse debut in May of 2022 in “The Cake.” In December of 2021 she was in “The Christians,” produced by Harbinger Theatre in Albany, and in August of 2021 she drew praise for her part in “Barbeque,” produced by the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York.
Brierley back at SLOC
Brendan Brierley, a familiar face to Schenectady Light Opera Company fans due to his performances there in “The Producers” (2016) and “Legally Blonde: The Musical” (2016), is back in downtown Schenectady for the troupe’s current offering, “The Wedding Singer.” The show opens Friday and runs Wednesday through Sunday through March 26.
A 2006 Greenwich High graduate who went on to get a degree in theater from Fredonia, Brierley plays Robbie Hart in “The Wedding Singer,” a role made famous by Adam Sandler in the 1998 movie of the same name.
“I took a complete break from everything when COVID came along, and I’ve been waiting for just the right project to come back,” said Brierley. “This show has always been at the top of my bucket list, the show and the role, ever since I first heard the soundtrack when I was in college back in 2009.”
Joining Brierley on stage in the main female role is Allison McArdle as Julia Sullivan. Stephen Foust, who directed “9 to 5: The Musical” at SLOC, is also directing this production.
“Robbie Hart is basically a hopeless romantic who pretty much sees the good in everybody,” said Brierley. “He’s everybody’s best friend, and then he gets left at the altar and that forces him to think about his whole outlook on life. He has to re-examine the way he looks at life and love.”
McArdle has been a regular performer on area stages since graduating from SUNY Geneseo. A Voorheesville resident, she was in SLOC productions of “Sister Act” (2018) and “Urinetown” (2016).
“One of the things I love about this show is that everybody in the ensemble gets their opportunity,” said Brierley. “From the principals to the people in the ensemble, everyone gets a wonderful featured moment. We all get to bring our energy to our characters.”
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 South Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through March 26; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: Visit www.civicplayers.org or call (518) 382-2081
‘The Wedding Singer’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through March 26; performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday
HOW MUCH: $32-$25
MORE INFO: Visit www.sloctheater.org or call (518) 730-7370
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