Chicago Theater Review: ASSASSINS (Kokandy Productions at Theater Wit)

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by Paul Kubicki on June 25, 2014

in Theater-Chicago

COME ON AND SHOOT A PRESIDENT

Eric Lindahl (John Wilkes Booth) leads the company of Kokandy Productions' ASSASSINS.Assassins ushers together the horde of maniacs who have made attempts on the lives of US Presidents, seeking to examine their varying degrees of sanity, as well as their motivations. A sleazy proprietor entices each character to try their hand at shooting a president, presented as a carnival game, then invites us to witness each of their individual stories. The show has done especially well due to Sondheim’s musical numbers, with sticky tunes and clever, eviscerating lyrics. These more than make up for John Weidman’s problematic book, which has great moments, but struggles to spin a central narrative and ends up feeling more like a series of sketches. While this is a recommended affair, Kokandy’s production exacerbates this flaw.

Neala Baron (Sara Jane Moore) and Allison Hendrix (Lynette Squeaky Fromme) in Kokandy Productions' ASSASSINS at Theater Wit.Traditionally, the Balladeer (played here by Cole Doleman) is a more central narrator, providing the only sane voice on stage until he transforms into Lee Harvey Oswald and the other assassins convince him to join them. Director Rachel Edwards Harvith removes that transformation (another actor plays Oswald) and relegates the Balladeer to the periphery, robbing us of the only substantial central narrative and a much-needed counterpoint to the insanity onstage.  Doleman sings the role well, but lacks the presence and wit to win us over in the little stage time he gets.

Neala Baron, Nathan Gardner, and Jason Richards in Kokandy Productions' ASSASSINS at Theater Wit.Even if this production lacks cohesion, it is very well sung, backed by an excellent band, and dotted with many stellar performances. Greg Foster gives an almost Vaudevillian performance as Guiteau, the merry assassin of Garfield, and delivers the most fun number of the night. Jason Richards brings immense volatility and vulnerability to Samuel Byck, the would-be assassin of Nixon. While it is not everything it could be, Kokandy’s Assassins is a good deal of fun, and a worthy addition to the summer theatre season.

photos by Joshua Albanese Photography

The company of Kokandy Productions' ASSASSINS at Theater Wit.

Assassins
Kokandy Productions
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Thurs – Sat at 8:00 pm, Sat & Sun at 3:00 pm
scheduled to end on July 20, 2014
for tickets, call (773) 975-8150 or visit www.theaterwit.org
for more info, visit www.kokandyproductions.com

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

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