My review of Encore Theatre’s ‘Assassins’

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Matthew Brennan as Lee Harvey Oswald in Encore Theatre’s “Assassins.”

Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, now being staged at Dexter’s Encore Theatre, explores the more nightmarish aspects of the American Dream: for if we’re told from birth that we can “get ahead”– both professionally and personally  – by working hard, and yet we toil and labor and get nowhere, we’ll inevitably feel cheated, angry, and bitter.

But when a country breaks your heart, at whom do you aim your rage? For the 9 historic characters at the heart of Assassins, the answer is simple: a U.S. President. And while some are successful in their attempt, and others are not, they all transcend their respective eras to gather together in this show as a perverse kind of secret society. Included in the group is its famed forefather, stage actor John Wilkes Booth (David Moan); McKinley assassin Leon Czologsz (Dan Johnson); Garfield assassin Charles Guiteau (Daniel A. Helmer); FDR’s would-be killer Giuseppe Zangara (Ari Axelrod); Lee Harvey Oswald (Matt Brennan); would-be Nixon assassin Samuel Byck (Keith Allan Kalinowski); failed Ford assassins Sara Jane Moore (Sarah Briggs) and Manson protege Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Carly Snyder); and would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley (James Fischer).

If this sounds like pretty strange territory for a musical, it is – but in the best way possible. There’s still no other show quite like Assassins, more than 25 years after its Off-Broadway debut; and in addition to Sondheim’s terrific score (and John Weidman’s darkly humorous book), you get fascinating, brief glimpses into our history, and you’re also challenged to relate to people whose actions you’re never asked to excuse. READ THE REST HERE


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