Evil Empire: A Guides to the Baddies of the Current New York Stage

News   Evil Empire: A Guides to the Baddies of the Current New York Stage
Anyone looking for a primer in 20th century evil need only attend the New York theatre with some regularity in the next couple months. There, exhibited and impersonated with a mix of amusement and seriousness, can be found a sinister cast of characters who have collectively wreaked havoc on the world and its peoples.

Most of these are to be found in the Sondheim musical Assassins, which, as advertised, is about lone gunmen, particularly those with gripes against sitting presidents of the United States. The figures who dance and sing in this dark presentation of the Roundabout Theatre Company (to begin previews March 26) include four who achieved their murderous aim: John Wilkes Booth, the killer of Lincoln; Charles Guiteau, who felled James Garfield; William McKinley's assassin, Leon Czolgosz; and Lee Harvey Oswald, who brought JFK's life to an end.

Joining them on stage are a few failed shooters: Giuseppe Zangara; Samuel Byck; Sarah Jane Moore and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme; and John Hinckley, who, if they had collectively hit their marks, would have robbed the world of FDR, Nixon, Ford and Reagan, respectively.

If no actual dictators are currently represented on the Gotham stage right now (aside from the version of Hitler offered by Gary Beach in The Producers), their absence is more than made up for by an even half dozen of their wives and mistresses. Recently extended Off-Broadway was Robert David MacDonald's Summit Conference, which depicts a pleasant little tea between those harmless old friends Eva Braun and Clara Petacchi. Braun is well known as having been Hitler's consort. Less well remembered is Petacchi, Mussolini's gal on the side. Both suffered rather unglamourous deaths by light of their poorly chosen boyfriends.

In The Civilians' current offering The Ladies, meanwhile, the lives of a quartet of strongmen spouses are considered. They include Elena Ceausescu, spouse of the former Rumanian Communist leader; Imelda Marcos, the shoe-collecting half of the Phillipines' Marcos regime; Eva Peron, whose short reign as the wife of Argentina's Juan Peron brought her international fame and derision (as well as a musical based on her life); and Jiang Qing, a.k.a. Madame Mao.

Finally, Adrian Hall will take a new look at his play about convicted killer Jack Henry Abbott when In the Belly of the Beast Revisited is presented by Off-Broadway's 29th Street Rep Feb. 23. When Abbott and Norman Mailer began corresponding in the late '70s, the former had spent much of his life in reformatories and prisons. Mailer got some of Abbott's letters published in the New York Review of Books. This led to the 1982 publication of Abbott's first book, "In the Belly of the Beast." Mailer campaigned that Abbott be granted parole, and Abbott was transferred to a New York halfway house in June 1981. Six weeks later, Abbott stabbed to death a waiter in a Second Avenue East Village restaurant.

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