Sunday, July 13, 2008

Assassins at Company One

I read about Assassins, the musical by Stephen Sondheim, in the book Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. I don't think it had quite the depth of meaning for me that it did for her, but I enjoyed the play when I saw it last night.

The play itself is an interesting series of historical slices. Presidential assassins and would-be assassins account for themselves through soliloquy and song. If you don't know your presidential assassins, you'll at least have a general idea of their names and their intended targets when you walk out of the theater.

John Wilkes Booth: Lincoln
Charles Guiteau: Garfield
Leon Czolgosz: McKinley
Guiseppe Zangara: F. D. Roosevelt
Lee Harvey Oswald: Kennedy
Samuel Byck: Nixon
Lynette Fromme: Ford
Sara Jane Moore: Ford
John Hinckley, Jr.: Reagan

There's a lot of dark humor and shrill, discordant notes, as is typical for a Sondheim work. There's also clever dialog and good storytelling.

Company One in Boston performed the play. It was my first experience with Boston theater (growing up in New York, I saw most of my plays on or near Broadway). It was very good. The theater is a small and intimate semicircle. Like theater in the half-round. The stage is the floor, and I had a front-row seat. The actors were arm's-length away.

They did a great job. I especially liked Mason Sand as Samuel Byck. He gave a chillingly amusing soliloquy, a rambling explanation of his plot via audiotape to Leonard Bernstein. McCaela Donovan as Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was charmingly airheaded, so it was a pleasant surprise when she let loose with her powerhouse singing voice. All the cast were very good. Nathanael Shea had a couple of moments as John Hinckley that raised goosebumps.

I'd give it a solid recommend.

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