Assassins, directed by Jasmine Hare and Patrick Blenkarn, is a heartily entertaining production presented with confidence and style. Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s musical tells the stories of America’s famous presidential assassins, some successful and some not, through engaging songs and snappy dialogue.
The live band did an excellent job setting the stage with warm tones and tight cues. The musical style shifted with the constantly changing eras and was well balanced with the voices of the actors, allowing the lyrics to be heard. The cast member’s singing voices were generally very strong and their dynamic vocal range made for a cohesive sound during songs involving the entire ensemble.
Greta Landis displayed impressive comedic abilities with her endearingly shrill voice, and Sean Young’s skillful performance looked effortless and assured. Addy Shoichet and Andrea Benson demonstrated especially notable voices. Shoichet hit the challenging upper register with ease, and Benson was able to maintain an Italian accent while belting out powerful notes.
Moments of wooden dialogue and less compelling storylines appeared around the three-quarter mark, causing the play to lose momentum. The energy was restored once more characters, and perhaps more experienced actors, took to the stage, coming together just in time to make for an exciting and satisfying finale.
What really added to the atmosphere was the lighting, operated by Jake Eidinger. It often spilled into the audience, allowing the actors to connect with the crowd and showing off their confidence as an ensemble. Interesting shadows during dramatic moments added visual interest and created sinister atmosphere.
Costumes, designed by Hare, represented each of the visited eras and suited the actors’ characters and complexions in a strikingly natural fashion.
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Assassins’ best feature was Blenkarn’s set design. The play takes place in many different environments, ranging from a bar, to a park, to a set of gallows. Blenkarn handled this challenge with skill; the stage was set up in various layers that not only looked great, but also made the transitions appear seamless. The square stage allowed for the use of dynamic blocking, giving the audience a glimpse at multiple, usually unseen, perspectives. The stage was made to feel more intimate by the meticulous placement of props that gave the show a pleasantly cluttered appearance.
Although reserve tickets have been sold out for days, you would be crazy not to at least try to make it out to this one. Assassins is a strong theatrical achievement that hits the mark with all the precision of a sniper. But don’t worry; no audience members are harmed during the presentation of this musical.
Assassins continues its run through Saturday, Jan. 19. All performances are at 8 p.m. in the Pit.