Wednesday, November 14, 2018


I went to sketch the opening night performance of Assassins at Breakthrough Theater (419 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789). Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics and he also wrote the music for one of my favorite shows, Sunday in the Park with George. I had never seen Assassins but since I love Sondheim, I had to go. The book was by John Weidman, and the show was directed by Angela Cotto.

Breakthrough theater is a tiny little gem in Winter Park. The  lobby was warm and welcoming with a concessions stand. The walls were covered floor to ceiling with framed posters from past shows. This show wasn't as crowded as I would have expected for a Sondheim musical.

The premise of the show was strange and unsettling. Assassins from throughout America's history assembled together to justify their second Amendment right to bear arms and kill presidents. In the opening act, Iris M. Johnson, acted as a gun dealer offering guns to each assassin in turn to bolster their self worth and ego. John Wilkes Booth, (Gabrial Garcia) sang a ballad,  about why he needed to kill Abraham Lincoln after the  Civil War had ended.

Every Assassin was always waving around a gun, and sitting in the front row, I felt uncomfortable having so many weapons pointed in my general direction. Granted they were clearly toy guns and the audio sound effects were faint caps popping any time a gun was fired.

In one scene, Rebecca McVeigh as “Squeaky” Fromme, the girlfriend of Charles Manson, and Carol Jaqueline Palumbo as Sara Jane Moore, started shooting at a bucket of Kentucky Fried chicken. Squeeky's manic laughter was truly terrifying, but what was more terrifying was the fact that so many people in the audience were laughing. Perhaps this is deeply ingrained in America, we are taught from an early age that violence is funny and entertaining.

Lee Harvey Oswald (Scott Gilbert) had a conscience. He went to work carrying a package of curtain rods. His minimum wage job left him with low self esteem. The entire cast of assassins, sang a song encouraging him to shoot John Kennedy. According to them his act of violence would help keep their memory alive. When he opened the package of curtain rods, he found a rifle. At one point they became a chorus line waving their guns in unison.

I find myself sketching people who are still deeply affected by the massacre at Pulse. I respected Anderson Cooper for never saying the gunman's name when reporting about the Pulse Nightclub massacre. The names of these assassins are better left unsaid. The very premise of the play seems to make light of the horror of such violent acts. I lost some respect for Sondheim for writing this musical that seems to glorify and justify the acts of these assassins. Perhaps the show might make audiences think twice about gun control, but the message is lost if they laugh instead. A mentally deranged person seeing this play might think that they might one day share the fame of these assassins. We are sitting on a powder keg. All that said, one song from the show keeps ringing in my head. (Why did You Do it Johnny?)

Performances of Assassins continue through November 26, 2018.
Tickets are $20 General Admission, $18 Seniors, $15 Students, and $12 on Mondays.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

1 comment:

Vicki Wicks said...

Sometimes people laugh when they are scared or nervous. Perhaps that's what you heard from the audience.