Through Sunday, March 11
Theatre in the Park, Raleigh
We’d say the midway’s open once again for this latest revival of Assassins, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s sardonic, carnival-tinged musical tribute to the ultimate Second Amendment solution. But its opening during the week of the Parkland school massacre underlined the fact that, when it comes to gun violence, the American shooting gallery never truly closes and we’ve all, democratically enough, become targets. Step right up.
In that grisly light, we watch as four successful and five would-be presidential murderers heed the siren song of the Proprietor (Gerard Williams)”Everybody’s got a right to their dreams”and put their money down for a sucker’s game. Director David Henderson gets a full measure of passion from his gallery of rogues on Thomas Mauney’s dingy carny set. Joel Abelson masterfully declaims the grievances of John Wilkes Booth as Tyler Graeper’s balladeer heckles him, saying that Booth killed Lincoln due to bad reviews. Daniel Wilson captures the gravitas of Polish immigrant Leon Czolgosz, provoked by injustices to assassinate William McKinley. Areon Mobasher plays an enraged Giuseppe Zangara, who attempted to kill Franklin Roosevelt, and Michael Blanchette makes a convincing, earthy everyman of failed Nixon assassin Samuel Byck. Andrea Amthor Twiss brings mordant, downhome humor to comic foil Sarah Jane Moore.
But Lucas Barrick’s sound design repeatedly frustrated singers and listeners on opening night. Diane Petteway’s nine-piece band repeatedly overpowered Sondheim’s lyrics, and the pacing dragged in the disjointed middle sections of a darkly comic revue. Hopefully, these gaffes will be addressed when the show reopens this week, taking dead aim at our current American dilemma.