‘Assassins’ Hits Close to Home at Princeton Summer Theatre

Lily Davis and Chris Beard in rehearsal Credits: Ogemdi Ude

PRINCETON, NJ – Leave it to Stephen Sondheim to find the cutting edge in the kaleidoscope of American events. What he wrote in 1990 is even more potent today, hard on the heels of the Orlando gay nightclub terrorist attack.

These assassins, from 1865 until the 1970s, cover not just presidents Abraham Lincoln, McKinley and John F. Kennedy, but other well known figures, such as Charlie Manson and John Hinckley, who was obsessed with actress Jody Foster and attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan.

But what are we to make of all this violence? Yes, those who performed these acts were sick and misguided, but in today’s world, how do we counteract the terror that keeps on giving?
Director Tatiana Pndiani said she felt numb after the latest shooting in Orlando. “Has the epidemic nature of mass shootings stopped me from feeling loss and pain?” she asked. “I can’t retrieve from my mind how similar the craziness in this show is to the craziness on our streets, churches, schools and nightclubs.” It’s more and more apparent that no place is safe.
And to see these actors and singers (all excellent) aiming guns at each other and at the audience, we’re caught up, once again, in the senselessness of all that has happened.
Sondheim’s musical is, at times, atonal, at other times quite lyrical with songs about “being happy” (as in “Everybody’s got the Right”) and an occasional love duet. But there’s a lot in it that’s weird and off the wall. The musical would benefit from an intermission, since two hours of concentrated murder is a little hard to take. “ Despite several Tonys, “Assassins” never reached the popularity of some of Sondheim’s other musicals, such as “Company,” “Follies” and even the over-produced “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum.” John Weiedman wrote the book for this show.
There’s a brief homage here to “West Side Story,” which paired Sondheim’s lyrics with Leonard Bernstein’s music. But many of the vignettes are crude. The entire play, in fact, seems fragmented, skipping back and forth in time for no apparent reason.
Billy Cohen as John Wilkes Booth paves the way for Jared Brendon Hopper as Lee Harvey Oswald to realize he can go down in history for assassinating JFK and, in a semi-dream sequence, help all the other assassins win a glimpse of immortality. Lily Davis as Lynette is the one who follows Charlie Manson ‘because he’s God.’ is outstanding as the Balladeer. Then we have Maeve Brady, paired effectively with Davis in their songs about guns and all the damage they can do. It’s downright scary. Others in the cast include Christopher J. Beard, Jake McCrady, Paloma Munoz, and Estaban Godoy.
Despite its dark theme, the cast brings an exuberance and energy to this challenging production. Vince di Maura’s musical direction is top notch, full of energy and vibrant syncopation.  Pandianai has directed with vigor.
Performances continue through June 26.  For tickets, call 732-997-0205 or visit princetonsummertheater.org/tickets. Coming up next is “God of Carnage,” followed by “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” and “Fool for Love.”

Liz Keill reviews professional theatre in the New Jersey area, ranging from the McCarter Theatre in Princeton to Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. In addition to writing for Tapinto.net, she does theatre analysis for HometowneTV in Summit. She holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from Penn State and a Master's in Communication from Syracuse University. Liz is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, which holds seminars at regional theatres across the country as well as in New York City.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Providence

Enjoy a Lifetime of Discovery in Union County Parks

July 18, 2018

July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and Union County residents are invited to celebrate this year by exploring “undiscovered” programs and activities found throughout the nearly 6,200 acres of the Union County parks system.

“Union County was one of the very first counties in the United States to establish its own county-based park system for nature conservation and ...

Union County Honored for History Projects

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce that two national achievement recognitions for history projects have been presented to the Union County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Union County is rich in history, and this Freeholder Board is committed to engaging the public with ...

Union County College Foundation’s 3rd “Close the Gap” Campaign Surpasses Goal

CRANFORD, NJ – With over 150 guests and volunteers in attendance, the Union County College Foundation surpassed their goal and raised nearly $55,000 at their 3rd Annual Close the Gap Campaign cocktail reception. Held on July 11, in the Richel Student Commons at the College’s Cranford campus, this campaign was developed by a small group of dedicated community volunteers to support the ...

Geoffrey the Giraffe Moves In To New Brunswick Children's Hospital

July 12, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.

"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John ...

TAPinto Spotlight on Business Features New Providence Dentistry

July 17, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - TAPinto "Summer Spotlight on Business" features local businesses and their owners who are important to our communities. Follow this column to receive a fresh perspective on small business owners and their unique needs while shining a spotlight on their stories.

This edition features New Providence Dentistry, operated by Dr. Beth Herko and her staff of ...

Upcoming Events


Fri, July 20, 8:00 AM

Providence Health & Fitness, New Providence

Barre Intensity

Health & Wellness


Fri, July 20, 9:15 AM

Providence Health & Fitness, New Providence

Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Health & Wellness


Fri, July 20, 10:30 AM

Providence Health & Fitness, New Providence

Pilates Reformer

Health & Wellness


Fri, July 20, 6:30 PM

Providence Health & Fitness, New Providence

Vinyasa Flow Yoga


Sat, July 21, 8:00 AM

Providence Health & Fitness, New Providence

Barre Intensity

Health & Wellness

And Over Here is the Dining Hall 2

My very first job in admissions was while I was still an undergraduate myself as a tour guide.  Very early on they indoctrinated us with some tricks of the trade.  It’s a dining hall, not a cafeteria.  A residence hall, not a dorm.  If you have to divulge some negative bit of information, sandwich it between two positives.  There were instructions for glossing over ...

Avoiding 10% Tax Penalty

Do you want access to money from your retirement accounts but aren't sure of the real costs involved?

Most retirement accounts have a set age requirement you must reach before making penalty-free income distributions, which is usually 59.5 but can sometimes be as early as age 50. If you decide to access your accounts earlier, you could face penalties ranging from 10%-25%, which is not ...