Sitting in a half-empty theater in Pasco's Columbia Basin College was disheartening, especially knowing the quality of theater so many were missing out on.
Assassins, a musical by Stephen Sondheim, kicked off CBC's 2008 Summer Showcase with, quite literally, a bang. Several in fact.
Assassins is a quirky yet sharply politically-pointed musical following the actions, horrors, excuses and failures of attempted or tragically successful American presidential assassins.
The show takes an extreme look at politics and patriotism, perhaps in the hopes of bringing perspective to our current reality when the gunsmoke clears.
This darkly comical musical ties these infamous American men and women together in their twisted quest for acceptance, recognition and attention.
Does the show glorify these villains and their acts, or pull focus to current politics, past tragedies and our own patriotism? This show, as all theater and art should, sparks conversation, debate and ultimately reflective thought.
What's more is the perspective, however extreme, is captured by a talented cast and crew. Korry Watkins leads the band of killers as John Wilkes Booth, oozing vanity and charm; he creeps under the skin masterfully singing Sondheim's difficult material with a wink.
Sergio Bueno as Zangara masters an Italian accent through his mile-a-minute solo, while Robbie Heegle as Czogosh stoically grapples with a polish accent and the power of a gun.
William Lenzky as Charles Guiteau plays a maniacally comical character who may be "going to the lordy" but he's going with a smile. Hippy Squeaky Fromme played by Stephanie Fanning and housewife Sara Jane Moore, played by Barb Parsons, find ways to pull laugh after laugh at their bumbling, ditzy, KFC-fueled conversations. Sam Turner as John Hinkley is oddly sweet and awkward as he professes his "unworthy" love for Jodie Foster.
Kirk Fletcher as the Santa suit-clad mentally unbalanced Sam Byck brings realism, humor and insanity that are chilling snaps back to reality in a show that makes you forget what you're laughing at.
Rounding out Assassins, of course, is Lee Harvey Oswald, played by Nathan Morris who creates a taut, nostril-flaring Oswald pleading for sympathy but ultimately getting none.
Richard Reuther's carnival barker Proprietor deftly lures the rabble down the road to ruin. While Chuck Williams' Balladeer weaves us through the stories with a deeply soulful blues and folk voice that chastises, pokes fun and pleads for the rest of us.
CBC's Assassins was a thought-provoking pleasure, with its fair share of laughs, jumps, unsettling moments and witty, powerful songs. The show is rated PG-13 and contains strong language and adult content as well as some very loud noise makers, but if you're looking to be entertained and challenged, feed your twisted sensibilities and come see a great evening of theater.
*William Geisel lives in the Lower Valley and has volunteered with theater groups and schools for 24 years.