Categories: Arts Theater

‘Assassins’ hits artistic, emotional bullseye

There’s a temptation to make bad jokes about the timeliness of a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” in today’s divisive political climate. It is a musical that spotlights, if not celebrates, nine people who attempted to kill or succeeded in killing the president of the United States.

However, if you take the time to “listen to the stories, hear it in the songs” of these men and women — as The Balladeer (Sage Georgevitch-Castellanos) exhorts you to do — you’ll find that their motivation to murder is not so different from the emotions driving voters who prevailed in the last U.S. election.

They felt cheated – “I want my prize!” – and, far worse, felt ignored by those in power.

Bay Area Musicals, in its second season, hits the artistic bullseye with this production of the 1990 musical (and Tony Award-winning 2004 revival) at the Alcazar Theatre in The City.

The assassins’ history starts with John Wilkes Booth (an unctuous yet elegant Derrick Silva) and ends, at least chronologically and at least so far, with John Hinckley Jr. (Zac Schuman, in another of his successfully creepy juvenile portrayals).

They’re part of a broken band that chooses Lee Harvey Oswald (again Georgevitch-Castellanos, a polished singer and equally fine actor in dual roles) as the front man in their concert to honor assassins past and shine a beacon for those to come.

Director Daren A.C. Carollo (moonlighting from his day job as co-executive director of 42nd Street Moon) has assembled a solid ensemble to carry the vocal heft of Sondheim’s score and John Weidman’s very weighty and very funny book.

Carollo also designed the spare, smart set that perfectly evokes the carny, off-kilter feel of this unreal world. His wise and subtle directing choices also allow the audience to do what the characters want most – to connect.

Performance highlights include Jessica Fisher’s hysterically clueless and klutzy Sara Jane Moore; DC Scarpelli’s intense-but-lost Leon Czolgosz sharing a poignant moment with Nicole Frydman’s warm-heartedly pragmatic Emma Goldman; Kelli Schultz’s acerbic-yet-naive “Squeaky” Fromme; and John Brown’s wonderfully deranged Sam Byck (attempted assassin of Richard Nixon).

Maximilian Wix, Gary M. Giurbino, Peter Budinger, Terrence McLaughin (ably delivering one of the score’s tougher songs), Rebecca Davis and Eric Nieman (a Pagliacci-Joker hybrid as The Proprietor) complete the cast.

Near the end of the show, Davis, as The Housewife, beautifully begins the haunting “Something Just Broke,” detailing reactions to the death of John F. Kennedy.

It’s a song of awareness — that actions have consequences, sometimes farther reaching than can be imagined — and that a seemingly final solution is sometimes no solution at all.

REVIEW
Assassins
Presented by Bay Area Musicals
Where: Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, closes March 18
Tickets: $35 to $65
Contact: (415) 340-2207, www. bamsf.org

Robert Sokol

Recent Posts

Warriors’ cold shooting against hot Spurs ends with a 111-105 loss

By Rob Johnson Special to S.F. Examiner SAN ANTONIO — In their third game of a four-games-in-six-nights road trip, and…

4 hours ago

SF Preps Baseball: Pino pitches one-hit gem in win over first-place Washington

Facing a potential 0-3 start, with rain threatening the rest of week, Mission Bears head baseball coach Chris Ayag sent…

5 hours ago

SF Preps Baseball: Lowell blasts Balboa 12-1 behind strong outing from Levi Humphrey

BALBOA PARK — As he concluded his warm-up pitches before the sixth inning on Monday, Lowell Cardinals senior Levi Humphrey…

5 hours ago

Community, officials gather to break ground on Mission District affordable housing project

Beginning with an indigenous blessing, the Mission District community and officials gathered on the evening of Monday, March 18, 2019…

7 hours ago

National union takes over Muni local in midst of contract talks, citing ‘infighting’ and ‘dysfunction’

The leadership of Muni’s operator union has been kicked to the curb even as contract negotiations for roughly 2,000 drivers…

10 hours ago

SF reaches $13.1M settlement with man framed by police for murder

Attorneys for a San Francisco man who served more than six years in prison after police framed him for murder…

11 hours ago