Lost Theater Troupe looks for motives of presidential ‘Assassins’
The connection between John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Warnock Hinckley and others who tried to reverse the will of voters with small-arms fire gets a test in a production of “Assassins” in Grand Junction.
The Lost Theater Troupe production of the 1990 Stephen Sondheim musical draws a connection among that small group of people who killed or tried but failed to kill presidents.
“Assassins,” by definition, is dark, populated as it is with the killers of Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and other, less successful, perpetrators.
It’s also a condemnation of the assassins and wanna-bes, director Michael Combs said.
“We ask you to understand them,” Combs said. “We don’t ask you to sympathize with them.”
One of the things that binds those with presidential-assassination ambitions is their failure to connect with the American dream, even Booth, who was popular on the American stage before he took a leap to one from the balcony at Ford’s Theater after shooting Lincoln.
Booth “was used to getting mixed reviews,” said David Kenworthy, who plays the “granddaddy” of American assassins. By killing Lincoln, Booth convinced himself “he would be getting only raves.”
The lives of assassinations, though, have a perverse way of working out exactly the opposite of their dreams, which is one of the main points the play drives home, Combs said.
“Assassins” includes a mostly male cast, but Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore, who made separate attempts on the life of President Gerald Ford, are included. Kristin Mercer, playing Fromme, sings a duet with Jeremy Smith playing Hinckley, the man who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan.
For those who don’t know why the bluff overlooking the Grand Valley, as well as a county in western Colorado, are named Garfield, “Assassins” clears that up, exploring the motives of Charles Guiteau, assassin of President James A. Garfield in 1881, just before western Colorado was opened to settlement.
With songs by assassins, portrayals of executions and gunfire, audience participation and the struggle between good and evil — personified by Bryan Carlson and Seth Armour, respectively — “Assassins” is not for children, Combs emphasized.
Still, said chorus member Lyzz Willms, the Sondheim score will leave people humming.
Most of all, Combs said, the play is not political, pro-gun or anti-gun, just “a pro-American show” dedicated to the notion that American political success comes from “hard work and dedication and not by assassination.”