The show opens on the front porch with 4 of the gang, Dino; Bobby, Ray & Artie (a law student; a shipping clerk for a fashion house; a salesman for a luggage store and an assistant in his father's shoe business); bemoaning their single and female-free status. Nice boys but with all with the same underlying fault - they always left it till the last minute to try and get a date for Saturday Night (Saturday Night). Bobby, however, doesn join in with this moaning about a lack of dates, he has, he says, a married girlfriend. As Bobby is the baby of the group (around 16), this seems unlikely but he assures them it is true. He thinks he knows more about women, and about the stock market, than any of the rest of them.
They are joined by Gene with Celeste & Hank, a married couple who are part of the group but a little older (Hank is around 26). Celeste has a friend called Mildred, and reluctantly the boys allow themselves to be persuaded to invite her on a collective date. Gene's father, with whom he lives, appears to be away on the road permanently, so there is no adult input/supervision. Gene has a hot tip for the stock marker, Montana Chemical Corporation and because he works on Wall Street, everybody tosses money into the neighbourhood stock pool to buy the stock. Bobby warns them that the tip and the stock are both no good.
The front porch is part of a house in Brooklyn belonging to Gene Gorman. Gene has ideas above his station. He is a dreamer, a little impulsive perhaps, but mostly a victim of his own confidence. He is a runner for a stockbroker on Wall Street but aspires to something better, to a society life. He never worries about Saturday night as he always has some place to go - party-crashing in Manhattan. He tells his friends what makes him suited to the high life (Class). The gathering is then interrupted by a cousin of Gene's co-incidentally, but vitally, also called Eugene Gorman, but known to all of them as Pinhead, a name he hates. They call him that so that they can tell the difference between the two, and because that's what he really is. Pinhead has a rich wife and is not a very nice person. He tells Gene that he leaving for Florida and asks him to take care of his car, a Pierce Arrow, and maybe drive it around the block once a week so the battery won't go flat. After Pinhead leaves, Gene dons his tuxedo and sets off for the Plaza Hotel in his cousin's car, to crash another ritzy party, and the gang go off to the movies, leaving Bobby alone in the house for his alleged tryst.
In front of the hotel, Gene's attempt to convince the doorman that he has lost his ticket fails miserably. Just as he is leaving, a pretty young woman appears and tries exactly the same approach. She too is rebuffed by the doorman. Music is playing inside (Love's a Bond). Noticing Gene, the girl drops her handkerchief. Gallantly he picks it up, and as he returns it to her, her accent suddenly switches from New York to Southern. They both tell each other that they are guests at the party and have been left by their respective partners. She says her name is Helene Calhoun Forrester and that she is from the South. Magnolia fairly drips from her lips as she tells him about her plantation and her family. He tells her he is Eugene Goulding Gorman the Third from Newport. She says that perhaps he could take her into the party, hastily, he suggests that they would be much better dancing out there where it is not so crowded, and they dance (Isn't It?). He then suggests that they go for a spin in "his" car and she asks to be dropped at the Waldorf where she is staying. As a memento of the evening, Gene gives Helen a photograph of himself.
Meanwhile, the gang have been to the movies and the boys argue over who should pay for what (In The Movies). (This was to have been near the end of Act II in the original production). Bobby is at the house, pretending to be with his married girlfriend. He has invented her because he thinks that's the only way the gang will let him hang around with them, and after a while he starts to believe it! He takes over the house every Saturday and nobody is allowed back till they have warned him so he can be sure the coast is clear. So after he gets the warning, he rushes round the place making it looked "used" - roughing up the couch and cushions etc. The gang return, followed closely by Gene who tells them about the southern belle he has just met. The phone rings - it is a strange woman who tells Gene she wants to come over and see him. He goes off to put on his dressing gown with the embroidered dragon on the back. Bobby then finds it necessary to explain to the rest of them the art and process of romance (Exhibit A). Then Bobby's mother calls and he has to go home because it is getting late.
The gang pretend to go home, but watch from the bushes to see who this strange woman is. She turns out to be Helene Forrester. It seems that Gene's driving licence has stuck to the picture he gave her and she thought he would need it back. She confesses that she is really Helen Fogel, a chicken-merchant's daughter from Brooklyn. He also confesses and they discover that they have a lot in common. Gene turns on the gramophone (A Moment With You) and they dance. Gene, knowing the gang is watching, tells Helen he has to appear to make out or he'll lose face, because it's that kind of a neighbourhood. Helen, a great girl, suggests they kiss (just for effect), turn out the lights and sneak out the back way.
The next day, Gene takes Helen, in Pinhead's car, to go shopping across the bridge, but since Gene is a romantic, they go apartment shopping - with the whole gang in tow. Gene and Helen leave the rest of the gang to watch the car and go to look at a Sutton Place apartment, on the market due to an impending divorce. Gene fantasises about living there, but is horrified when the gang, tired of watching the car and wanting to see the place, enter the apartment. He gets rid of them, but feeling embarrassed and humiliated in front of the real estate agent, he impulsively says he will rent the apartment, and uses the pooled stock money as a deposit. The agent leaves. Helen, who is horrified, asks where he plans to get the money to replace the stock money, and Gene says he will borrow money on Pinhead's car until the stock goes up, and then he'll buy Pinhead a new car.
The next week is a good week for the stock market - for every stock except Montana Chem. In order to get money for more margin, Gene has sold the Pierce Arrow. Helen is worried about the mess his speculation has got him into and tries to get him to take a job with her father. Of course, he'll have to start at the bottom, as an assistant chicken-plucker. Naturally, Gene is appalled by the idea and wants to know what has come over Helen. Helen said once she had ideas of grandeur and leaving Brooklyn, but things have now changed (So Many People). It is Saturday night again and the gang wander in. (Saturday Night reprise) It's still the same story, except that last week they had 3/5 of a girl each and this week they have 2/3 of a girl, as Mildred has brought her friend Florence along.
Helen, even more worried about Gene, bursts into tears. Gene tells the gang these are tears of excitement over having become engaged. Over Helen's protestations, everybody starts to sing happy songs (One Wonderful Day) though Bobby doesn't agree: "Wives are abhorrent except when they aren't your own".
The place - the same; the time - one week later, the day - Saturday. (Saturday Night reprise) Celeste & Hank reminisce over the start of their romance (I Remember That) (In the original production this song was planned for early in Act 1, but the Bridewell production moved it to here).
Events have taken a turn for the worse - the weather in Florida has been terible so Pinhead has returned unexpectedly. Going to the garage for his car, he finds it gone, so reports it as stolen by Gene to the police. Gene has been missing for 3 days and Helen is frantic. The police turn up at the house and question the gang about Gene's whereabouts. Enter Pinhead. The police ask who he is, and when he says Eugene Gorman, they arrest him for stealing his own car. The gang choose not to reveal the truth and he is dragged off, protesting, to jail. The gang follow, leaving Helen alone at the house. The phone rings, and Helens says she will give the message to Gene. Gene, who has been watching from outside, enters. He tells Helen that he will give himself up, but he still has $200 and wants to have one night on the town with her. Helen heartily disapproves and they argue. Gene tells her she disapproves of everything he wants to do, so she gives in, only on the understanding that come the morning he will give himself up. He reluctantly agrees to that, so they go on a tour of night-clubs, all of whom seem to be playing the same tune (Love's A Bond reprise). Still desperate for money, Gene takes his last dollars and asks the headwaiter to put it all on a number on the roulette wheel in the back room. Naturally, he loses. By now very drunk, Gene tells Helen that this is his natural habitat, these beautiful people are his people and that he can't breathe in Brooklyn. He says he can't face jail and threatens to kill himself. Helen says it's fine with her and gives him a gun. He calls her bluff and shoots himself, only to find the gun is a water pistol picked up at an earlier nightclub. Humiliated in front of the people he so admires and wants to impress, he storms out, leaving Helen surrounded by laughing people. (All For You). The gang have gone to the police station, proud of the efficiency of the cops in the borough. What a neighbourhood! The kind where one of them might be willing to go to jail for Gene. (It's That Kind of A Neighbourhood). They tell the cops that there are two Eugene Gormans, which confuses them.
Gene appears and tells Helen that he has come to give himself up. He says that after the water pistol incident he had run outside and realised just how wonderful it was to be alive. Helen says she has something to tell him. The phone call she had received, which he knew nothing about, was from the real estate agent. Apparently the divorcing couple from the Sutton Place apartment had reconciled and desperately wanted to keep the apartment. His deposit had been refunded, along with a little extra for the inconvenience and stress suffered. (In the original she had been selling Montana Chem short while he had been buying, which also netted enough money). She had kept it from him only because she wanted him to take responsibility, legal and otherwise, for his actions. They kiss and make up (What More Do I Need?) and she tells him that he has to leave Wall Street, that he can start plucking chickens on Monday. Gene goes to jail for the night and it all ends with a reprise (One Wonderful Day).
- Lynne Chapman
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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