“Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” That is the question that many of my friends still think about. Sort of like today’s, “Where were you when the towers went down ?” While it has been well over fifty years since the world came to a sudden stop as JFK and Jackie drove in the open Lincoln limo through the streets of Dallas, and many books and movies have been brought to the world to show us how there was just one man who brought our world to its knees, many have always thought that there was indeed a conspiracy. In fact, there are many different ideas that have been expressed over the who’s and why’s. Now, Hillel Levin brings us his theatrical investigation in its World Premiere of “Assassination Theater: Chicago’s Role in the Crime of the Century”, where four actors take us on a trip through that day in November.
As our Playwright, Levin and director, Kevin Christopher Fox explain this, it is a new kind of theater. While they have many facts to outline their thoughts of what took place on that fateful day and the can implicate the underworld figures that were tied to Chicago, and much of what we see is based on fact, they do expect that audience members, who come from different places will see things differently than they do, so while they feel that they will convince each of us that they are in fact correct, it is best to treat this evening of entertainment and mind opening as you would in reading a book, but instead we are seeing it live. Ah, the beauty of live theater, in a whole new light!
They have selected the Museum of Broadcast Communications, located at 360 North State Street as the perfect spot for bringing this World Premiere to life as the media itself was a big part of the event that we are watching and learning about. They have taken a large social room on the second floor and converted it into a theater with a multi-level stage. The chairs are not real comfy, so I suggest you bring a seat cushion (a cush for the tush), and they did not set up risers, so I suggest you try to get there early for a seat in the first three or four rows for better views as there are lots of video images to see as well as the four actors who bring many of our characters to life.
The main characters are Levin (played to perfection by Michael Joseph Mitchell, who truly comes across as the man who assembled all of these details, a very realistic job, indeed). Mark Ulrich portrays Zack Shelton, a retired FBI agent who was there and involved. There are two other actors who take on many roles; Martin Yurek and Ryan Kitley. These two gentlemen change appearance and voices as well as demeanor in the snap of a finger. Brilliance personified! During this two hours and twenty minutes (there is a 15 minute intermission), you will find yourself being drawn into the web they have built. We all have our own ideas and theories. We all have seen movies, debates and read books on the topic of the day that Camelot died, but the surprising stories and the solid presentation may sway even those who are firmly implanted with the idea that the Mafia had nothing to gain- we all know they did! And in this production, we see how the pieces of the puzzle fit. They even take us into other possible Mob “hits”, Mayor Cermak and brother Bobby (RFK), as they point out might have been assassinated by the “boys” as well.
One of the questions that will arise is relative to the conspiracy. Did JFK die for his brother’s upsetting the Mafia? In this riveting story we learn about many cover-ups. Was it the FBI? Johnson? Or did the government just want to make the American population be done with this? They needed closure. After all, this was their dream President. The man who was going to make it all better. Perhaps, our leaders let certain facts slide by so they could lead our country in the right direction, avoiding a major war and any more problems than we already had. This is what makes this show special. It opens your eyes to things you may have forgotten, or never knew!
The tech part of the show makes a lot of difference in the flow, so a special thanks to Anthony Churchill (Projection designs), Matt Kooi (lighting design), Christopher Kriz (original music and sound) and Victoria Carot (costumes). With their aid , and of course that of the solid cast, we go back in time and learn more about the actual assassin (or is it plural?) and why it all took place. No matter what you think entering the theater, you will find a small Ping-Pong game take place in your head as new ideas and evidence is brought to light. Wow!
This is a powerful piece of entertainment! Yes, it is thought provoking, but it is entertainment and it will certainly open your eyes and give you something to talk about as you go home from the theater or grab a bite to eat. By the way, there is agreat new place on the lower level of the building located at 360 N. State Street. It is called The Tortoise Club with some great appetizers and steaks. The show will continue through November 7th ( I am thinking it will end up longer, but would not wait- just in case) with performances as follows:
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $49- students and seniors $39 and can be purchased by calling 800-838-3006 or by visiting www.assassinationtheater.com
Valet parking might be the best bet- only $10 ( $8 if you dine at Tortoise Club)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Assassination Theater”.
Suggestion: come a little early and take a look at some of the artifacts and old radios on the second floor. They also have a great gift shop with some wonderful memories. www.Museum.TV