Off Center Stage315 Richardson St.
Grass Valley, CA 95945
Assassins is a killer musical—a musical about killers, anyway—and the Sierra Stages production of the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman play comes out guns a-blazin’. Like its subjects—nine people who killed or tried to kill a president of the United States—the play sometimes misses.
The play, mind you, not this production. It’s right on target, a bull’s-eye every time, starting with the overture from a small but extremely effective four-piece band. The cast is introduced by J.R. Lewis as the proprietor of a carnival booth with the legend “Kill a Prez, Win a Prize.” Quickly, we meet those who would claim that carnival prize: Leon Czolgosz (Conor Nolan-Finkel), who shot President William McKinley; John Hinckley Jr. (Casey Burke), who tried to get Jodie Foster’s attention by killing President Ronald Reagan; Charles J. Guiteau (Jed Dixon), who shot President James A. Garfield; Giuseppe Zangara (Isaias Acosta), who shot the mayor of Chicago, but missed President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Samuel Byck (Paul Micsan, who tried to hijack a plane, fly it into the White House and kill President Richard Nixon; Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (Tinley Ireland) and Sara Jane Moore (Kim Wellman), who both separately tried to shoot President Gerald Ford; John Wilkes Booth (Danny McCammon), who shot President Abraham Lincoln; and Lee Harvey Oswald (David Holmes), who shot President John F. Kennedy.
Susan Mason smartly directs the fast-paced revue, which skims but never delves into the motivations of these marginalized individuals. Are they seeking to right perceived wrongs, gain fame or … who knows? That’s the trouble with Weidman’s book that Sondheim’s lyrics can’t fix: Everything isn’t explained.
The one truth Assassins reveals is this: There are and seemingly always have been too many guns too easily accessed.