‘Assassins’ is funny, musically on target, makes you think
If you go
■ What: Killer Sondheim musical, ‘Assassins’
■ When: Matinees, evenings to April 28
■ Where: Cygnet Theatre Company, Old Town Stage, 4040 Twiggs St., San Diego
■ Tickets: $24-$59
■ Box Office: (619) 337-1525
■ Website: cygnettheatre.com
By Diana Saenger
Stephen Sondheim definitely marches to his own beat, and he proves that in Cygnet Theatre’s production of “Assassins.” Paying any kind of homage to those who have killed — or tried to kill — presidents of the United States, actually seems to work in this innovative farce.
With such notorious characters as John Wilkes Booth (Braxton Molinaro), Lee Harvey Oswald (Jacob Caltrider), John Hinckley, Jr. (Kurt Norby), Sara Jane Moore (Melinda Gilb), Jason Maddy (Leon Czolgosz), Jaycob Hunter (Guiseppe Zangara), Geno Carr (Charles Guiteau), Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Melissa Fernandes), and Manny Fernandes (Samuel Byck), it’s no surprise this show has filled many prominent stages since its inception in 1990.
As we learn through song, some of these killers acted quickly and on their own, but Sondheim has chosen to mock this idea, like when Oswald has to be told, blow by blow, how to shoot Kennedy. Caltrider offers up a shy and not-so-evil Oswald, until John Wilkes Booth gives him instructions.
Booth, as most know, was responsible for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Molinaro is excellent in bringing this assassin to life. He’s merciless and finds glee in helping fill the Wanted posters with other presidential assassins.
Then there are the two female assassins. Gilb, a resident artist at Cygnet, is always spot-on in her portrayals. She plays Moore (who attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford) for laughs with the attitude of a mother at a picnic who left the chicken at home. She’s hilarious, especially when she practices shooting into a bucket of KFC.
A Charles Mason follower, Fromme also attempted to assassinate Ford. Fernandes is a little more rigid in her portrayal, almost bringing chills through her naiveté about her actions.
Sean Murray has not missed a single beat in his direction, layering the nine stories in “Assassins,” and staying true to the book by John Weidman. The set design by Ryan Grossheim works well, always keeping a somber theme. David Brannen’s choreography is superb, and music director Patrick Marion keeps every song true to the book. One of my favorites, “Everybody’s Got the Right to Dream,” features the foreshadowing lyric, “so pick your apple and take a bite.”
Along with the musical fun, Sondheim has given this show a thought-provoking tone, giving one pause to consider dreams, America, and where our country is at today.
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