The Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim explores the motivations behind the assassins’ plots to kill U.S. presidents.
Director Mike Donahue said the assassins are brought together in the musical by a carnival proprietor who sells them on the idea of the American dream and the thought that assassins have a right to be happy.
“There are moments when you’re meant to really sympathize with one of the assassins and connect with their vulnerabilities and insecurities,” Donahue said.
“There are other moments when it’s terrifying that there are these nine people running around the room with guns, but there are moments when someone shoots a gun and it’s actually funny in the show.”
Donahue said the musical doesn’t follow the structure of a traditional, linear narrative and doesn’t have a stable tone.
“The whole piece functions in a kind of anarchy, and it really is up to these nine assassins to take over and hijack the evening,” he said. “Once you set them off, it’s up to them to decide where we go next and what happens next.”
Jeffrey Meanza, associate artistic director at PlayMakers, plays Charles Guiteau, who assassinated President James Garfield.
“He has a real strong physical desire for connecting to people. He also has this really strong spiritual connection to his God, and it’s actually largely what drove him to assassinate James Garfield,” he said.