note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Beverly Creasey
The brand new Metro Stage Company explodes on the scene this weekend with guns ablazin’. Stephen Sondheim’s ASSASSINS is rarely performed—because of the unpleasant subject matter (presidential assassination) and because it doesn’t give you anyone to root for. (Unlike SWEENEY TODD, which it resembles musically and thematically, ASSASSINS has a passel of anti-heroes, not just one wronged barber, to amuse in true sardonic Sondheim fashion.)
Metro Stage gets solid work from the cast, with a strong performance from Robert Case as John Wilkes Booth. Case is regal in bearing, makes an affable foe and has gorgeous low notes with which to charm us. Bob DeVivo, too, has the charisma to lull us into sympathizing with his delusions, as Garfield’s assassin. DeVivo gets the vaudeville show stopper, as he taps his way up the stairs to the gallows. James Tallach channels the workman’s desperation as McKinley’s angel of death. Tallach almost makes you weep for the depth of his pain. Deb Poppel, as Emma Goldman, and Tallach have the show’s only tender scene.
Director Janet Neely and music director Michael Kruetz are magicians: What they’ve done (along with Julie Silverman’s clever choreography, John MacKenzie’s shadowed lighting and Case’s minimal set) is nothing short of wonderful. From Erin Tchoukaleff’s wacky Squeaky Fromme to Chris Moleske’s eerie would-be assassin, the show sizzles.