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Last Chance

July 25, 2002|Philip Brandes

Theater

Assassins--The controversial Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical about the killers of U.S. presidents is a tough sell under any circumstances. Tackling it in a period of surging patriotism is a particularly gutsy gamble, but Karesa McElheny's accomplished staging redeems the show's problematic reputation. The piece freely mixes fantasy and reality to unearth a common underlying theme in these nine successful and would-be presidential assassins: the corruption of the right to the pursuit of happiness. This manifests itself in different ways, from the misguided patriotic zealotry of John Wilkes Booth (Beau Puckett) to the loony ravings of would-be airline hijacker Samuel Byck (Jeffrey Cabot Myers). Though the brevity of the show's initial New York run was often blamed on bad timing, another obstacle was its lack of any opening for empathy. That problem was solved with the addition of "Something Just Broke" (not on the original cast recording, but here), a heartbreaking number in which ordinary people sing of their reactions to the JFK shooting. The song transforms a freak show into a moving collective experience of national grief.

Philip Brandes

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Ends Sunday at the Knightsbridge Theatre Los Angeles, 1944 Riverside Drive, L.A., (626) 440-0821.

Also closing this weekend:

The All Night Strut--Fullerton Civic Light Opera production of Fran Charnas' musical celebration of jazz, blues, bebop and American pop standards from the Depression to post-World War II ends Sunday at the Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 879-1732.

Show Boat--Musical Theatre West production of the Oscar Hammerstein-Jerome Kern classic, starring Dale Kristien, Sean McDermott, Anne Runolfsson, Dan Tullis Jr. and Brenda Moore, ends Sunday at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, (562) 430-2324.

This Is Our Youth--Kenneth Lonergan's merciless but hilarious portrait of spoiled Manhattan kids floundering on the verge of adulthood ends Sunday at Alhecama Theatre, 914 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara, (805) 962-8606.

Death of a Salesman--Arthur Miller's classic drama starring Eddie Jones as Willy Loman ends Sunday at the Interact Theatre Company, 5215 Bakman Ave., North Hollywood, (818) 773-7862.

The Cherry Orchard--The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and Circus Theatricals production of Chekhov's comedy, with Alfred Molina and Stephanie Zimbalist, ends Sunday at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A., (310) 477-2055.

Epic Proportions--A send-up of Hollywood's heyday, this engagingly silly bagatelle from Larry Coen and David Crane (co-creator of "Friends") ends Sunday at West Coast Ensemble, 522 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 525-0022.

Guys and Dolls--Frank Loesser musical about gamblers, gangsters, mission workers and romance in New York's Times Square. Ends Sunday at Marsee Auditorium, El Camino College, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, (310) 329-5345.

3 by Shakespeare's Skum--Three parodies by Carolyn Spedden presented by Culver City Public Theatre at Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Avenue and Braddock Drive, Culver City, (310) 712-5482. Bring blankets or lawn chairs. Ends Sunday. Free.

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