'Assassins' are — a little bit — like us - Omaha.com
go logo
article photo
article photo
In-process shot of Leon Czolgoszīs gun in UNO Theatre's production of "Assassins."(Photos by Bob Hokasen)


THEATER REVIEW

'Assassins' are — a little bit — like us
By Bob Fischbach
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER


Leave it to an actor — John Wilkes Booth — to quote Willy Loman from "Death of a Salesman" in justifying presidential assassination.

"Attention must be paid," Lincoln killer Booth (Ben Beck) tells JFK killer Lee Harvey Oswald (Aaron Ellis), goading him to pick up a rifle in Dallas' Texas School Book Depository.

ASSASSINS

What: Stage musical

Where: University of Nebraska at Omaha Theatre, Weber Fine Arts Building, 6001 Dodge St.

When: 7:30 tonight and April 18-21

Tickets: $15 adults, $10 senior citizens and military

Information: 402-554-7529 or online at www.unomaha.edu/unotheatre

"Assassins," a dark musical in which killers and would-be killers of American presidents take center stage to justify themselves, is at the University of Nebraska at Omaha this weekend and next. It's a remarkable piece of theater for what it has to say about American history and the national psyche.

Set in a carnival shooting gallery complete with barker (Mike Palmreuter), the musical revue makes the point that we're connected to these characters. It's disturbing to relate to some of what they're spouting, suggesting they are — a little bit — us.

With a book by John Weidman and the inimitable Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics, the 1990 show has razor-sharp wit to spare, keeping its audience teetering between laughing (almost against its will at times) and getting caught short by sobering turns.

FDR shooter Giuseppe Zangara (Jack Landrie) is amusing, right up to the moment he dies in the electric chair.

The singing at a Wednesday preview was uneven, the acting less so. Character work, and director D. Scott Glasser's intelligent staging, made up for moments when Sondheim's tortuous score proved a bit much for student voices, though music director Paul Boesing has obviously rehearsed the cast well. Chorus numbers were particularly robust.

The way Weidman and Sondheim have these killers from different time periods interact with each other can be amusing and also enlightening.

"Unworthy of Your Love," a well-sung duet in which Ford shooter Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Maggie Wilken) and Reagan shooter John Hinckley (Aaron Wrigley) sing to photographs of Charles Manson and Jodie Foster, makes a point about hero worship crossing over to insanity.

Charles Guiteau (Michael Mecek, a robust baritone) and a balladeer (Ellis) waffle between an amusing shuffle and a gospel lament as Guiteau approaches the gallows for the slaying of President Garfield in "The Ballad of Guiteau."

Chris Thackray brings great emotion and poignancy to McKinley killer Leon Czolgosz, along with one of the show's best voices, as he leads into "The Gun Song." The number becomes a duet, then a trio and quartet as Booth, Guiteau and Ford shooter Sarah Jane Moore (Kim Kershner) blend in nice harmony.

Some of the night's funniest bits belong to Kershner, who plays Moore as a scatterbrain. She causes Fromme to come unglued when she brings her dog and pre-pubescent son along to the shooting.

Steve Hartman, as nut job Samuel Byck (who failed to kill Nixon), and Wrigley, as Hinckley, offer credible portrayals of mental illness, Byck as loud and irascible as Hinckley is quietly passive.

A personal favorite: Ellis as the balladeer, combining strong singing with a crowd-pleasing persona. He makes an impression early and sustains it all night.

Robbie Jones' spare set of canvas panels and rolling units, along with Steven L. Williams' lights, help keep pacing brisk. The show runs 1 hour and 50 minutes, without intermission. Expect both profanity and disturbing imagery in this adult entertainment.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1269, bob.fischbach@owh.com

Contact the writer: Bob Fischbach

bob.fischbach@owh.com    |   402-444-1269

Bob reviews movies and local theater productions and writes stories about those topics, as well.

Read more stories by Bob


Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom


Copyright ©2014 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or redistributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

Latest Stories

Here's who'd play Pelini, Osborne and 19 other Nebraska celebrities in a movie
Here's who'd play Pelini, Osborne and 19 other Nebraska celebrities in a movie

When Hollywood comes calling to tell the story of one of our own, we need to be ready with some casting suggestions because the movie executives will certainly want to hear what we think.


'That thing is atrocious': Rusty steel panel in downtown Papillion plaza spurs complaints
'That thing is atrocious': Rusty steel panel in downtown Papillion plaza spurs complaints

The panel is made of weathering steel that's commonly used in building designs. It's supposed to be turning into a vibrant orange panel emblazoned with a monarch butterfly, but the transformation process is taking longer than expected.


Paul McCartney's best moments (and also his weirdest)
Paul McCartney's best moments (and also his weirdest)

Paul McCartney, who will perform in Lincoln this summer, is responsible for some of the most beautiful pop music ever recorded. But he’s had some head-scratching moments, too.


Watch Westside High seniors Jack and Jack answer fan calls
Watch Westside High seniors Jack and Jack answer fan calls

Vine superstars and Omaha residents Jack and Jack were in studio with Mike'l Severe. Fans called in with questions for the guys from across the country.


‘Wonder Bread Years’: Tickets on sale now for salute to baby boomer generation

Tickets go on sale today at the Omaha Community Playhouse for “The Wonder Bread Years,” Pat Hazell’s comedy salute to the baby boomer generation.


What to watch: John Wayne in 'Stagecoach' on TCM
What to watch: John Wayne in 'Stagecoach' on TCM

John Wayne stars as the Ringo Kid in this classic Western about a group of people traveling through the unsettled West who are threatened by Geronimo.


An early look at the new Beercade (photos)
An early look at the new Beercade (photos)

A new Beercade's only a few months away, and the owners let us look at the new space next door.


Michael W. Smith will perform at the Nebraska State Fair
Michael W. Smith will perform at the Nebraska State Fair

Michael W. Smith will headline the Nebraska State Fair’s Christian concert on Thursday, Aug. 28.
Smith will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Heartland Events Center.
The multiple Grammy Award winner has sold more than 15 million albums, has had 28 No. 1 hits and 40 Dove Awards, making him one of the nation’s favorite mainstream Christian artists.


Listen: Larry the Cable Guy tells us about his recent injury on a movie set
Listen: Larry the Cable Guy tells us about his recent injury on a movie set

In this clip from Monday's "The Bottom Line," Larry the Cable Guy talks about his benefit show for the Team Jack Foundation, his recent injury and what kind of Husker fan he is.


Paul McCartney will play Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena this summer
Paul McCartney will play Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena this summer

It will be his first time performing in Lincoln, but he did play Omaha in 2005.


 
Search
Movies Opening this week

Movie showtimes and theater listings






Read this!








VIDEOS

Tonight in Prime Time
© 2014 Omaha World-Herald. All rights reserved