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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Windfall Theatre Gathers 'Assassins'

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Windfall Theatre raised the bar on itself last weekend. And, for the most part, it succeeded. Windfall took on Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins.  Just like its title states, Assassins focuses on some of history's most notorious—and well remembered—killers (John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, among them), all set to music and lyrics.

So, what's to celebrate and enjoy about murder and mayhem?   Plenty, from the perspective of the criminals, as we watch them hatch and plot their course in a macabre carnival style setting. Yes, it is a game, but with deadly consequences. John Weidman's book provides insight into the hows and whys accompanied by yet another tuneful Sondheim score.

Director Carol Zippel uses the intimate Windfall space to the show's advantage and keeps it moving with the 1-hour 45-minute production (no intermission). Among the 15-member cast, there are a number of standout performances, among them Toni Martin as the love interest/fanatical follower of Charles Manson, accompanied by Tamara Martinsek's zany, hilarious Sara Jane Moore, the bumbling housewife who tried to assassinate Gerald Ford. Thomas Rosenthal's deftly restrained portrayal of John Hinckley Jr. is eerily captivating as he pulls the audience into his “reasoning” of why he must attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan to prove his love for the actress Jodie Foster.

As John Wilkes Booth and the leader of this notorious assemblage, Christopher Elst is the suave, devil figure, convincing his future assassins to carry out their murderous plans to be remembered forever, infamous and otherwise.

However, it is local veteran director and actor Mark Bucher's tour de force performance that really centers this group of assassins, as the tortured, demented Sam Byck, who went after Richard Nixon.  Bucher carefully walks between parody and pathos dressed in a Santa Claus suit as he rants and raves into a tape recorder, showcasing how all of these killers (attempted and otherwise) remain outside of society, often placed there by society itself.

Does history repeat itself? Yes—time and time again, offstage as well as onstage. Assassins reminds us that some people will do anything to be remembered and find their place in the world.

Assassins
runs through May 19 at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Ave. The show contains adult language and content and is best suited for those 17 years and older. For more information, call 414-332-3963 or visit www.windfalltheatre.com.