Group: New Line Theatre
Venue: Ivory Theatre, 7622 Michigan Ave.
Dates: Thursdays through Saturdays through March 29
Tickets: From $10 to $18, 534-1111 or metrotix.com
Story: Seated like the sides of a parenthesis in the middle of the stage are nine dysfunctional figures. Collectively, they slump their shoulders, keep their eyes to the ground and convey the impression of the misfits that they are. All presidential assassins or would-be assassins, they come together here, in a breezy one-act musical, to tell us why they did what they did, not for forgiveness.
Highlights: With a book by John Weidman and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Assassins crackles with energy, comedy and sassy class. Artistic director Scott Miller has scored a coup by casting actors who successfully convey in looks, mannerisms and performance a disparate group.
Matthew Korinko shows us the guile and passion of Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, and Zachary Allen Farmer is a delight in his impersonation of Charles Guiteau, assassin of President James Garfield and delusional dandy who considered himself an author. Amy Leone and Cindy Duggan are amusing as the vacuous Fromme and equally scatterbrained Sara Jane Moore, failed killers of Gerald Ford.
Christopher ‘Zany’ Clark shows a quiet resolution as the troubled blue-collar worker Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated President William McKinley, while Brian Claussen is suitably brash, vulgar and venal as Sam Byck, obsessed with killing Richard Nixon. Jeffrey Wright is quiet, sensitive and tormented in his failed attempt to murder Ronald Reagan, and Scott Tripp depicts the frustration of immigrant Zangara, would-be assassin of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Aaron Allen seethes and squirms as the invisible Lee Harvey Oswald, here prodded into action by the subtle encouragement of his comrades in crime in the show’s chilling final scenes, and Andrew Keller is amiable as the omniscient balladeer.
Other Info: Sondheim’s music is always difficult, and the primary faults in this production lie in some occasionally unsuccessful efforts, most notably by Keller on some high notes. Overall, though, everyone does fine. Musical styles reflect the various eras of the killers and are nicely produced by the musicians.
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.