Fooling the Play

Putting together a new theater company with a performance space to call your own in the Phoenix area is an exercise in frustration. No one is in a better position to attest to this truism than Michael Alessandro, head honcho and guiding force for Feast of Fools Theatre. In the company's two years of existence, these hearty nomadic players have been forced to uproot many different times before landing in their current--and hopefully long-term--home, at Scottsdale's New School for the Arts. Starting out with a world premiere stage production of Reservoir Dogs at the Third Street Theatre, they proceeded to live a comedy of errors in terms of location. They've worked at the Viad Playhouse and at PlayWright's Theatre, and they had a heartbreaking experience opening a new location in downtown's warehouse district that would have been called the Steel Door. At the last minute, just as they were to open a remounting of Dogs, city inspectors informed the troupe that the building was not within shouting distance of being in code. The Fools are now primed and ready to shake things up with Assassins.

Alessandro claims the travails were a worthy experience. Secure in the new location, the company can now focus on the matter at hand--bringing entertaining theater to new audiences. The choice of material has mostly been with an eye to getting new people into the theater--adaptations of Pulp Fiction and The Princess Bride. "The idea is to come up with something people are at least familiar with," says Alessandro. "To make theater more accessible to an audience who maybe have never been before." And to concentrate on pieces with a darker edge.

Assassins certainly fits that particular bill. An exploration of America's history of political assassinations complete with songs placed in the mouths of the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald and Squeaky Fromme, the show is darkly absurdist with a deadly serious center. This time out, the show includes material added to the score by Stephen Sondheim for a later London run. Notable is a new number, "Something Just Broke," sung by the bystanders who become witnesses to history.

--David Gofstein

Assassins continues with performances at 8 p.m. Friday, March 19; 8 p.m. Saturday, March 20; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 21, at the New School for the Arts, 7475 East McDowell in Scottsdale. 256-7898.

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David Gofstein