Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Assasins"

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"Assassins"

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman
Directed by russell Greene
Musical Direction by Howard Boles

Set Design by Ross MacQuarrie
Lighting Design by Jason Arnold
Costume Design by Lisa "Riz" Risley
Stage Manager Lynne Coxall

The Proprietor/Bartender....Steven Littlehale
Leon Czolgosz....................Brian Turner
Charles J. Guiteau...............David Dubick
John Hinckley.....................Brian Woods
Giuseppe Zangara...................Seth Teter
Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.......Judi Ann Mavon
Sara Jane Moore..................Isabel Davis
Sam Byck..........................David Berti
John WIlkes Booth...............David Warnock
The Balladeer..............Donald Baillargeon
Lee Harvey Oswald..............Kendall Hodder
Ensemble/Emma Goldman...........JoAnne Powers
Ensemble/David Herold..............David Wood
Ensemble.........................David Herder
Ensemble............................Gail Fein



Out in Wayland, Beatrice Herford's Vokes Theatre seems constructed out of theatrical history. And "Assassins," the one- act musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman the Vokes Players are doing out there, is similarly built from American history --- from the obsessive lives of nine people who tried or succeeded in assasinating presidents.

It's a tight squeeze in this 150-seat house when all nine assassins line up to dance to "Another National Anthem" or when the other eight encourage a reluctant Lee Harvey Oswald to justify their lives by shooting the president instead of killing himself. But just as the narrow stage concentrates the sound, this revue on a common theme develops the frustrations and motivations of this string of losers all taking their last shot at immortality. There is more here about their lives than any history book sketches in. But from the haughty, aristocratic actor who started it all, to the aging adolescent infatuated with an actress who ends it, the more they explain their justifications, the less justified their actions seem.

Nor are all these murderous personalities somberly, seriously sincere. As portrayed by Isabel Davis, the incoherent ineptness of Sara Jane Moore is hilarious. Not even when the man who slips on her spilled bullets then helps her load them back into the gun turns out to be Gerald Ford can she manage to shoot him. And David Berti has two stand-up (well, sit-up, actually) routines as Sam Byck, who says he intends to pilot a 747 into Dick Nixon's White House. And then David Dubick as Charlie Guiteau (the "disappointed office-seeker") dancing up the scaffold steps still looking on the bright side of tomorrow adds a surreal note all his own.

There is a scene where Brian Woods as John Hinckley, dying to impress Jody Foster, and Judi Ann Mavon as a Squeaky Fromme committed to "The Son of God, Charlie Manson" both sing of being "Unworthy of Your Love". Brian Turner as Leon Czolgosz tells the socialist lecturer Emma Goldman (JoAnne Powers) he loves her. Seth Teter as Giuseppe Zangara displays the scars from his wage- slave drudgery in a glass factory, and the entire ensemble gets to sing "How I Saved Roosevelt" when his wild shot kills Mayor Cermak instead.

This is the least Sondheim-like score from the master's pen, presenting songs in the styles prevalent in each historical period. And, in a sense, they serve as dramatic prelude to John Weidman's set-piece confrontation in the Dallas Book Depository of David Warnock as the dapper, commanding John Wilkes Booth with Kendall Hodder as young, reluctant Lee Harvey Oswald. After this, the keystone of the evening, all that can be left to say is in the elegiac song "Something Just Broke" in which The Balladeer Donald Baillargeon and the ensemble recall where they were that moment when Oswald's bullets changed the world forever.

Ross MacQuarrie's set looks like a box built of the stripes and stars of the American flag, but both walls are really pivoted panels through which singers and scenery appear and disappear, while the rear wall is a screen on which historic photographs set each scene. Hidden offstage, Howard Boles' 12- piece orchestra subtly underscores everything.

Director Russell Greene trusts this excellent, experienced cast to play together and to make each moment shine. From the many roles played by Gail Fein, David Herter and David Wood to Steven Littlehale's proprietor of the Presidential Shooting-Gallery that opens the show, they bring alive this entire vest-pocket musical practically in the laps of everyone in the audience. It is an ensemble effort in which everyone can take well-deserved pride.

Love,
===Anon

Produced by Tara Stepanian
for
THE VOKES PLAYERS
at
Beatrice Herford's VOKES THEATRE
Route 20, Wayland
Wednesdays through Sundays
till 16 November
1(508)358-4034



THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide
| MARQUEE | CURTAIN | USHER | INTERMISSION |