It is sometimes, a very difficult task to review a play where the talent is special, the music is wonderful and the script, or basic story line is one that does not make for an entertaining experience. Those of you who read me on a regular basis know that when it comes to Stephen Sondheim and his work, I am ALL IN!. I absolutely find his work to be incredible and he has proven over and over what a glorious wordsmith he is. “Assassins” is a work that is not often done. The story is about the “Assassins” and would be “Assassins” of many of our presidents. Based on an idea by Charles Gilbert,Jr, with a book by John Weldman to go along with the words and music of Sondheim, “Assassins” is a 100 minute ( no intermission) look at the characters that were seeking either revenge or hatred for one of our presidents during history.
While I have seen “Assassins” many times, in various venues, it is today where it may be even more meaningful than productions of the past. The other day I heard a report that there have been 74 gun incidents in schools throughout the United States since Sandy Hill . That is shocking! And every week-end, how many people are shot in a city the size of Chicago. When we hear the news, these “shooters” are often described as “different” or “outsiders”. That is what we see in “Assassins”- people who are different. As it turns out, all they want is “The Right To Be Happy”!
Directed by Rachel Edwards Harvith on one of the intimate stages at Theater Wit, this is a slick production where the ensemble truly works together. We look at the main characters and hear their stories while the other actors take on different roles to assist in making these characters and their stories make more sense. The set by Zachary Gipson is multi tiered and allows us to see history come alive. Kokandy Productions ( one of our bright stars on the theater scene) has opted to bring this production to us as if we were in a deserted fair grounds, almost abandoned with the exception of a stand where weapons can be purchased and a target range sits.
On these sacred grounds we meet the likes of John Wilkes Booth ( stunningly portrayed by Eric Lindahl”, Sam Byck ( deftly handled by Jason Richards) who planned to kill Nixon, The Balladeer/storyteller ( brilliantly played by Cole Doman),Charles Guiteau ( Greg Foster truly brings great spirit to this crazy man), Sara Jane Moore ( the comical Neala Barron). and Jeff Meyer, Michael Potsic ( John Hinkley ,Jr.), the adorable Allison Hendrix ( Lynette Squeaky Fromme),, Patrick Byrnes and Nathan Gardner ( Lee Harvey Oswald). It is at this point, as I look at the performances of these actors, I would want to offer a rating of.
This is a rough play to digest. Some of the story is fact, but a great deal is fiction. It is difficult to view a story about people being committed to killing someone who is important to the strength and power of our country and yet, our country has survived all these characters. True, these “crazys” got their “15 minutes of fame” and in some cases, much more, but the world never glorified them Maybe, if nothing else, viewing this story will make us even more aware of how the new gun laws are not for the betterment of our society and that maybe, just maybe, when we see someone who seems to be a little different, we should not ignore them. They could be the next “victim”.
There are not many songs that you will hum from this one and the words are a bit to complicated to recall after being heard. You will probably recall the theme “”Everybody’s Got The Right To Be Happy”, but the basic songs of the show are Sondheim’s way of telling the story. Under the musical direction of Kory Danielson on keyboards , with some clever choreography by Mike Ford and amazing costumes ( just right for the period) by Kate Setzer Kamphausen and lots of super props ( Johnny Buranosky) ,Kokandy Productions has put together a solid show that will give audiences a bit of an insight into some of our history and at the same time an enjoyable 100 minutes of “something different”.
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m. ( except 7/4)
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Wednesdays 7/9 and 7/16 ONLY at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $38 OPEN SEATING and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 773-975-8150 or online at www.theaterwit.org/boxoffice
To learn more about this company, visit www.kokandyproductions.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Assassins”