Being uncomfortable in a theater can be an indication of the effectiveness of a work when the material itself is uncomfortable. But uncomfortable does not begin to due justice to the feeling you have sitting in the intimate-becomes-claustrophobic space of the Theatre Building Chicago during Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s rarely produced “Assassins” when several notorious presidential sharpshooters start toting their all-too-real looking and sounding guns in your face and sing solo and in chorus about the motivations for their bizarre behavior in wanting to kill a president. Director Michael Weber has taken great care that assassins that we would recognize—John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley and “Squeaky” Fromme—look and sound the parts, and are presented as lost souls who are the dark underbelly of the American dream. They, like the rest of us, want to be noticed, loved and happy, but when they are unable to achieve this or anything else in their lives, they make a downturn with destiny, a narcissistic nod to notoriety. It is a somber story that few of us may want to think about, yet is chillingly compelling precisely because their actions are part of the fabric of our national identity, albeit a dark corner of that identity indeed. (Dennis Polkow)
Fri-Sat/8pm, Sun/2:30pm. Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, (773)327-5252. $25-$32. Through Mar 11. This production is now closed.