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Assassins Right on Target

MTG Succeeds in Chronicle Of Presidential Assassination Attempts

By Ashley Robinson

Staff Writer


Little Kresge Theatre

Aug. 30-31, Sept. 5-7, 12-14, 2002 at 8 p.m.; Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.

Written by Stephen Sondheim

Directed by Edmund Golaski ’99

Starring Jesse W. Cox ’03, Peter G. Chambers G, Daniel J. Katz ’03, David C. Poland ’04, James L. Kirtley ’94, Welkin H. Pope G, Tanis O’Connor ’02, Stephen L. Peters G, Rogue Shindler, Karin Iancu ’03, Todd Radford G, Jonathan Sheffi ’03

What do an FBI informant, a bricklayer, a Southern actor, a Marxist, an anarchist, Charlie Manson’s girlfriend, Jodie Foster’s stalker, and a disgruntled man in a Santa Claus suit all have in common? Yup, you’ve guessed it! They have all attempted to assassinate -- some successful, some not -- a U.S. President. This strange group also comprises the main cast of The MIT Musical Theatre Guild’s summer production, Assassins.

This musical takes the audience on a journey through almost one hundred years of American history. From the assassination plots of President Lincoln to President Reagan, the stories told in this show aren’t exactly what one would expect to find in a history textbook. Assassins gives the audience the killer’s side of the story, including what hardships, or in some extreme cases schizophrenic conditions, motivate the assailants to attempt murder.

To continue along with the divergence from your history textbook, Assassins is not told in any chronological order. In fact, some characters, like John Wilkes Booth (Stephen L. Peters G), have a tendency to pop up in other assassins’ scenes, usually to encourage the assassination plot. To keep everything from getting too confusing, and to help the not-so-historically savvy folks, a narrator of sorts (Rogue Shindler) sings the historical background to keep the audience up to speed.

Despite its somewhat gloomy topic, Assassins entertains with a careful balance between humor and intensity. The dynamic duo of Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme (Charlie Manson’s girlfriend, played by Welkin H. Pope G) and Sara Jane Moore (a housewife, volunteer, and FBI informant, played by Tanis O’ Conner ’02) definitely precipitated a fair share of the audience’s laughs. With a bucket of KFC in hand, a lack of some much needed therapy, and two guns, these women set out to assassinate President Ford.

Another comedic treat came from the story of Sam Byck (a.k.a. the disgruntled Santa Claus, played by James L. Kirtley ’94). Blaming American society for his failures in business and love, Byck decided that trying to kill the entire Nixon Administration would solve his problems. Byck’s somewhat psychotic rants were particularly hilarious.

The other assassinators were equally impressive. A chronic stomachache forces Giuseppe Zangara (David C. Poland ’04) to fire five shots at President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Charles Guiteau (Daniel J. Katz ’03) kills President Garfield with hopes of being pardoned by the new president. Factory worker and anarchist Leon Czolgosz (Jesse W. Cox ’03) assassinates President McKinley to gain credibility within the anarchist movement. And in case you never took history in grade school, John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Lincoln.

The show ends with a very interesting take on the assassination of JFK. Each assassin joins together, with Booth as the ringleader, in a powerful scene to persuade Lee Harvey Oswald (Todd Radford G) to murder JFK.

Assassins wouldn’t have been complete without the efforts of the orchestra and ensemble. They put the finishing touches on this show and help to keep it at a high level of artistry.

All in all, Assassins delivered a great show.