Pondering the ethics of Assassins

Friday evening, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable time at Calgary’s Pumphouse Theatre, watching the opening performance of  Front Row Centre’s Assassins, Stephen Sondheim’s Tony award-winning musical. I found it a well-performed, intriguing piece of theatre that is much edgier than most of the musical genre. Fans of dark stories will appreciate the glimpse into the minds of people our society generally views as evil. While Assassins in no way praises these people who murdered or attempted to murder U. S. presidents, all through the show I pondered the ethics of even portraying them as the anti-heroes in a play. 

The villains were entertaining, funny and often sympathetic. Was I wrong to laugh at their antics and, at moments, root for them?  How did I feel about the guns they kept shooting and pointing all over the place, including at us, the audience? And, most of all, might watching Assassins inspire some nut-bar to seek immortality through a similar, notorious deed?    

It’s quite a feat for a show to make me think like this, when I generally take the view that writers shouldn’t hold back on hard material.

 Front Row Centre’s Assassins is a steal at $22 (top price) a ticket. It will be playing at Pumphouse  Theatre until January 28th .  Unless you think the subject matter would totally put you off – and I’m sure it would do this to quite a few – I highly recommend seeing it.

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