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BWW Reviews: Equinox Theatre Presents ASSASSINS - Killer Effort!

Equinox Theatre Company presents their final show in their 2012 season with Stephen Sondheim's hit musical ASSASSINS playing now September 15th. This most American of musicals lays bare the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act historical "revusical" that explores the dark side of the American experience. From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman bend the rules of time and space, taking us on a nightmarish roller coaster ride in which assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods meet, interact and in an intense final scene inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

ASSASSINS or as I like to call it, "Killers in Purgatory" is a controversial show, especially given the unfortunate events that occurred in Aurora at the beginning of the summer that are still haunting so many of us today. The entire cast kept this in mind and executed that show with sensitivity and giving it a fun edge. I first have to say that the entire cast as a combined effort were excellent and even though solo performances stood out and some faded, the ensemble as a whole supported each other harmoniously for an enjoyable evening of music.Owen T. Niland as the Proprietor was very enticing in the opening number and has a great voice. His role as the "devil" was fun to watch and he was quite menacing with a devilish smile. Scott Bellot as the Balladier really drew you into the show and kept the show moving with great ease. I loved his transformation into Lee Harvey Oswald and the conflict that he faced. John Wilkes Booth played by Adam Shelton was spot on with his anguish and expressiveness in his ballad and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I enjoyed the suspense between Oswald and Booth and the  inevitable conversion of Lee Harvey becoming his tragic legend. Brandon Keller as Leon Czolgosz did a fantastic job with his accent and ballad; and really captivated the audience in his portrayal. When he described his painful background, you really felt for the kid (the coke bottles monologue was mesmerizing). His encounter with Emma Goldman (wonderfully played by Angela Mendez) was also heartfelt and bittersweet. Patrick Brownson was superb as the sarcastic Samuel Byck and brought some much needed comedy to this intense show. The real scene stealers of the show were the adorable girls - Squeaky Fromme (played by Sue Ann Shelton) and Sara Jane Moore (played by Emily Macomber. The girls were hilarious in their interactions and played well off each other. The Gun Song was also very good and the harmonies matched perfectly. James Crapes as John Hinkley showed great intensity throughout his entire performance and his duet Unworthy of Your Love with Squeaky Fromme was sad and lovely.The ensemble really shone in Something Just Broke and Rachel VanScoy really captured the song with her emotion.

The set was quite simple and effective thanks to designer Colin Roybal. It consisted of various plateaus of levels, which gave the stage dimension and a large scoreboard (which was a nice touch). With so many actors and plot lines, the flow for the show went quite smooth thanks to some gifted directing by Pat Payne and music was right on par with direction by Tim Kennedy. One major thing that was desperately needed to happen was an intermission. Now I love the Bug Theatre and it has been a staple for theatre and improv and everything in between for several years, but it is an older building and only has a swamp cooler. With as hot as it has been in Denver, the audience was quite toasty and in desperate need of refreshment and cool air halfway through. Without an intermission, I noticed attentions started to wander away from the talented actors onstage. The costumes by designer Cindy Franke were quite good and very accurate for each of the multiple periods given.

I also have to commend Equinox for their community outreach. In light of the recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, Equinox Theatre Company will be donating a portion of it's proceeds for the run of ASSASSINS to COVA, the Colorado Organization for Victims Assistance. In addition, there will be a donation jar set up in the lobby for anyone wishing to make additional donations.

ASSASSINS will be killing it at the Bug Theater now until September 15th. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm. For tickets or more information, contact Equinox at 720-984-0781 or online at Performances will be at The Bug Theatre – 3654 Navajo Street in Denver.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Jonathan Ruiz

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