|Bob Cox gets a charge out of playing assassin Guiseppe Zangara|
While it’s usually good to “follow your gut,” in the case of Giuseppe Zangara, not so much. Zangara was an Italian immigrant with severe stomach problems that may have affected his mind as well. He rationalized his attempt to kill President-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 (his bullet missed FDR but killed Chicago mayor Anton Cermak) because he thought wealthy and powerful people were somehow responsible for his bad stomach. Bob Cox of Plymouth, who plays Zangara in the Farmington Players production of Assassins, says, “I think it also had a lot to do with his feeling that he wasn’t afforded the same opportunities that others were.”
This sense of opportunity lost and dreams unrealized is a constant theme of Assassins, which examines the minds and motives of the nine U.S. Presidential assassins. Bob says that his biggest challenge in playing Zangara is “trying to understand where he is coming from. He is a lower-class immigrant who has struggled with health issues his whole life. Zangara doesn’t feel like there is anybody representing him. Nobody is looking out for his best interest, or even paying attention. He attempts to make them pay attention by taking it to the highest extreme.” And while some of the assassins appear more logical than others, Zangara is really crazy, which suits Bob just fine: “I get to scream and shout and yell at people while on stage. Any frustrations I’ve had during the day are all released!”
Bob’s big musical number is “How I Saved Roosevelt,” which shows an interesting juxtaposition between the media-hungry townspeople, and Zangara, who is strapped into the electric chair awaiting execution. Bob describes the scene as “bone chilling. There is a very large contrast between the townspeople and I. They are talking about what a great vacation they’re having because they got to see [and save] the President … while I am coming to the realization that nobody will remember me, and that no one agrees or understands my reasoning for the attempt. I think this is the same realization that a lot of the assassins come to at different points during the show and it’s interesting to see how each assassin responds.”
Is there a moral to the story in Assassins? Bob thinks there’s not so much a lesson to be learned, as there is an attempt to “put the audience in the assassins’ minds and show them what caused each of them to get to their breaking points.” No one will sympathize with or support the assassins, but as Bob says, “this play is about understanding; not supporting… but understanding. I don’t support their actions, but I can see now what drove them to do the violent things they did. I hope if the audience takes one thing away from this show, it will be an understanding for people who think differently than themselves. I hope they’ll understand how our actions and thoughts are a direct reflection of our life experiences. Perhaps they can apply that understanding to someone who has a different political opinion, or who has different religious views.”
The Farmington Players' production of Assassins runs through March 1st and is proudly sponsored by the Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.