“Everyone has a right to their dreams and to be happy”, right? Sure, that seems like an easy pill to swallow. But what if their dream is to assassinate the president? Now, we must pause. This is what hit me within the first five minutes of Theater2020’s powerful and timely production of Assassins by Stephen Sondheim. I wish I could say that I was able to stop wrestling with that question and simply “enjoy” the show, but that would be a lie. Thanks to purposeful direction by David Fuller, this production doesn’t let the audience off the hook so easily and makes us ponder the inconceivable; do murderers deserve to be humanized and understood? I didn’t clap once until the show was over because of how profound this show is, not because there was ANY lack of talent on stage.
What happens when some of the USA’s most infamous presidential killers meet in an altered reality to connect with each other over their heinous acts? The result is hilarity and unnerving truths that we do not want to acknowledge because it scares us as it reveals the darker sides of the human condition. The cast does a great job of forcing the audience to sit with their feelings. We sit so close to the stage and the performers use the whole theater, which means that you can’t escape no matter how badly you want to check out. Amber Dewy serves as the narrator and lastly as Lee Harvey Oswald. Her magnetic voice strikes to the core. Dewey shape shifts well, switching vocal styles seamlessly. There’s no weak spot in her voice and it’s a pleasure to listen to her. Christian Doyle plays John Hinckley so well that we believe that the only way for him to win Jodie Foster’s love is to kill Ronald Reagan. His vulnerability is so honest that we can’t help but feel for his plight and root for him (almost).Insane! Bringing outstanding comedy to the show is Danny Wilfred. He saves us from total despair by making us laugh at the most inappropriate times. The rest of the cast impresses as well and all are praiseworthy.
But is doing a show like Assassins glorifying these men and women who have caused so much pain? Or is it a way to remind us all about mental illness and perhaps the need for stricter gun control? Well, I leave that up to you to decide. But with our current political climate I urge you to be brave and go see this show. This is top-notch off off Broadway theater and yet again, a prime example of Theater That Matters! Simply put, they MURDER this production.
Assassins plays now through March 25, 2018 at 182 Remsen St., St. Francis College http://www.theater2020.com