Geneva Underground performs ‘Assassins’
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media July 5, 2012 10:34AM
Leon Czolgosz (played by Tairen M. Foster) is inspired by anarchist Emma Goldman (played by Aimee Kennedy) in Geneva Underground’s "Assassins." | Courtesy of GUP
♦ July 6-22
♦ Geneva Underground Playhouse, 524 W. State St., Geneva
♦ Tickets, $15-$20
♦ (630) 677-1725
Updated: July 5, 2012 12:09PM
A kaleidoscope of killers is coming to Geneva.
The Geneva Underground Playhouse presents the 1990 Stephen Sondheim play “Assassins” at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays July 6 through 22. Performances will take place in the Geneva Underground Playhouse. “Assassins” is directed by Craig Gustafson of Lombard.
The play examines the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act musical.
From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, “Assassins” bends the rules of time and space, taking the audience on a nightmarish rollercoaster ride in which killers and would-be killers from different historical periods meet and interact with each other. Geneva Underground Playhouse was originally slated to present “The Great Trailer Park Musical,” but had to put the kibosh on it.
“It was a lesser-known show and it was really hard to get a cast for it,” he said of the play. “But when people heard we were doing ‘Assassins,’ which is a Sondheim show, you’d be amazed at how many schedules suddenly freed up.”
There is no plot because it is a kaleidoscope of all the people who have attempted to or have assassinated the presidents, from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley, Gustafson said. And it’s a musical, to boot.
“It’s a musical in the same way ‘Sweeney Todd’ is a musical,” he said. “’Sweeney Todd’ is not one of your lighter, happier shows. There is some very funny stuff in it, because it’s very black comedy. It’s funny, it’s tragic and it’s horrifying at points. The conceit of the show is that it’s almost like a vaudeville scenes of the various assassins. Assassins from one era meet with assassins of other eras. For instance, there is a very beautiful 1970s Carpenters-style love duet between John Hinckley and Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme (the woman who tried to kill Gerald Ford.) It’s beautiful and it’s creepy as hell.”
There is a beautiful barbershop harmony called “The Gun Song” that is basically a love song to guns, he said. There is a character called The Balladeer who sings ironic folk ballads ultimately condemning the actions of the assassins, he said.
“The aim of the musical is, because people tend to go, ‘Well, they’re all just nuts’ and yeah, a couple of them are just as crazy as bedbugs – some of them are very socially committed, but they just picked the wrong way to go about it and they aren’t too bright. It shows the different stories of all of them. The show wants to understand why these things happen. It doesn’t present ideas so much as it asks questions. It’s presented in an extremely entertaining way.”
The score, he said, is Sondheim’s most diversified, he said.
“The music is terrific and what it has to say is very important,” he said.
This isn’t your typical summer production of “Grease.”
“It can be very intense, but it can be very funny,” he said. “If you love musicals, you’re going to love this show. But be prepared. It’s more ‘Sweeney Todd’ than ‘Hello, Dolly.’ It’s a dark, intense, funny show. But it ain’t fluff.”
This will challenge audiences, he said, and warned that for language and content, it is definitely rated R.
“If you’re in the mood for a terrific play for adults, this is for you.”