|Barry Cutler (far right) plays Garfield assassin Charles Guiteau (below), who marched to his own demented drumbeat.|
As assassins go, Charles Guiteau is pretty obscure. Most people probably haven’t even heard of the president he killed (James Garfield in 1881), let alone Guiteau himself. But despite Guiteau’s relative anonymity, that doesn’t stop Barry Cutler from playing him as “larger than life” in the Farmington Players production of Assassins.
Barry describes his character as follows: “Imagine if Zig Ziglar were a nutcase and you have Guiteau in a nutshell. Guiteau’s glass is always half-full, although what he’s full of can’t really be printed here. He fell nothing short of a certifiable lunatic—a psychopath with an ego the size of the Eiffel Tower, if you will. He shot Garfield because the President refused to make him Ambassador to France.” Barry is used to playing “colorful characters” and Guiteau is no exception, saying, “I’m having a blast with his 'cakewalk to the gallows,’ Guiteau’s funny and final attempt to prove to everyone that he matters. I enjoy the challenge of making this deeply flawed man seem at least a tad human, but certainly not likable.”
With despicable characters and an uncomfortable subject matter, I asked Barry what audiences would enjoy about Assassins? His answer: “Not all stories are designed to make audiences ‘feel good.’ That being said, all stories should make audiences ‘feel something.’ People will enjoy the show for various reasons, the entertainment value, the glimpse into parts of history they may or may not have previously explored, and the revelation that each assassin is the ‘hero’ of his own story. While their goals are abhorrent, in their own minds they want what everyone wants – their own version of The American Dream.”
The American Dream is a prevalent theme in Assassins. As director Mike Smith says, "Assassins uses these historical characters to shine a light on the promise and failure of the American Dream which, I think, is as valid an analysis today as when it was first produced. … I relate to what the assassins want because wanting is the American Way. It's never easy to get there by following the rules, but it can be done.” Similarly, Barry understands the assassins’ motives, but to him, the ends do not justify the means: “The assassins believe they have the right to happiness, whether they pursue it or not, and if they don’t get it, it’s everyone else’s fault. – A warped version of the American Dream. Personally, I don’t buy it. You want happiness, go find it. There’s no need to wallow in self-pity, or to point fingers.”
Barry’s played numerous characters since joining the Farmington Players in 2006, having last appeared on the Barn stage as “Mushnick” in Little Shop of Horrors: “I joke with Jason Wilhoite (the Balladeer) that this our fourth duet on the Farmington Players stage. If I can stay on two feet cakewalking up the stairs, it could be one of our best.”
The Farmington Players' production of Assassins is proudly sponsored by the Center for Financial Planning, Inc. The show runs from February 14 – March 1. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.