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November 7, 2007 > Assassins: A Musical Drama

Assassins: A Musical Drama

By Anuja Seith

The Newark Memorial High School Performing Arts Department has a reputation for taking on edgy subjects with the composure of seasoned professionals. This time, they have successfully tackled "Assassins," a Tony Award-winning musical drama about the danger of losing the American dream of justice, liberty and equality. It is a play filled with resentment and anxiety as well as humor and a craving to save the American Dream. The audience meets nine disgruntled people who blame their misery on the system and government to explain their actions. Assassins opens in a fairground shooting gallery bordered by the Statue of Liberty, posters of Presidents, their murderers and those who attempted to assassinate them. This sets the tone for subsequent events. Throughout the play, compelling songs follow an assassination, conspiracy or attempt to weave hopelessness and despair throughout.

As the play develops, each assassin appears as an intriguing figure with convoluted thoughts, fears and hopes with which they connect to each other, blurring the barriers of time and space. The audience witnessed an intense performance by Danny Englese as John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's murderer. His proprietary role in the play, entices future counterparts to move their "little finger" on the trigger and bring an end to their woes with a president. Leon Colgosz, another assassin played by Emanuel Coloma, reveals his grief and passion when a broken bottle reflects the miserable situation of the working class and Guiseppe Zangara (Kenny Silberberg) adds to his desperation and torment as he suffers from physical ailments.

Amidst these dark complexities, comic relief comes from Kendall Andrews as Sara Joan Moore, a middle-aged house with dangerous streak and Marina Toft as Lynette "Squeaky" Formme, a pixie hippie in love with the murderous Charles Mason. Both these characters, with carefree manner and wit, tickled the audience. Charles Guiteau played by Michael Landreth is a comical buffoon who perfectly fit the persona of a self-acclaimed politician and celebrated author who nurtures dreams of being an Ambassador to France. Sam Byck is excellent as an inebriated poverty-driven character played by Cody Harrah. Dressed in Santa's coat, Byck wants to resurrect the constitution as his Christmas present providing humorous yet scathing comments on the corruption of our system.

The makeup and costumes of the characters were well done and provided realism to their roles. Although the play toys with a serious and potentially depressing subject, it ends on a positive note salvaging the American dream by asserting, "Angry men don't write the rules and guns don't right the wrong." It conveys a message that violence or aggression doesn't change society and its system; despite all odds dreams and ideals of social justice, freedom and equality continue.

Assassins: A musical drama
Fridays and Saturdays
Thru November 17
8 p.m.
Newark Memorial High School
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 818-4451

Tickets: $10 presale or $12 at the door

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