Monday, August 4, 2008

Review - Assassins

Photo credit: David Elzer

book by John Weidman; music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
West Coast Ensemble
directed by Richard Israel
extended thru September 28
All Americans are entitled to the American dream, even those who assassinate a President. After all, there is a thin line between a spectator and a perpetrator: they are both cut from the same mold. John Weidman and Stephen Sondheim quite brilliantly show assassins throughout American history - those that succeeded and those that failed. The current West Coast Ensemble mounting boasts an outstanding cast and superior direction.
Motivation for the crimes is ever so carefully explored. It is most fascinating to note that assassins were motivated in many different ways: some by money, some by social status; some thought they were saving the United States from injustice by casting out its tyrannical leader, and still others just wanted some lasting recognition. What do they have in common? They were hated, but are forever remembered - more readily in fact that many
illustrious celebrities!
Richard Israel guides his actors efficiently and economically in this grande and bold parade across the tiny stage. Standouts include Shannon Stoeke as Lee Harvey Oswald, John O'Brien dynamic as Samuel Byck, who planned the death of Nixon, and Christopher Davis Carlisle as John Wilkes Booth. Also notable are Andrea Covell as Emma Goldman, Steven Connor as Charles Guiteau, Darrin Revitz as Lynette Fromme and Johanna Kent (musical director and understudy) as Sara Jane Moore, who plotted against Gerald Ford. Dana Reynolds makes a lovely Balladeer.
Sondheim's music is intellectually and emotionally potent in "Another National Anthem", "Everybody's Got the Right", "Something Just Broke", especially meaningful for those like myself who lived through that cold Friday in November of 1963 when JFK met his maker, and the very popular "Unworthy of Your Love".
The show had only moderate success on Broadway in 1991, but it is much better suited to a small theatre. Psychological drama needs intimacy to reap its full-fledged effect. West Coast Ensemble courageously and memorably makes Assassins their own.
It's a five-star hit!


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