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Hinckley: A review of the play

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The play Hinckley recently previewed to a packed audience at the Adrienne Theatre in Philadelphia. The three person play dramatically captured the essence of John Hinckley, a complicated individual who attempted an assassination on the life of President Ronald Reagan. The reports at the time never made clear why Hinckley tried to kill the president. Author, Ginger Dayle always wondered why Hinckley didn’t go to prison.

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Dayle’s intriguing play may shed some light on the unanswered questions surrounding the assassination attempt or may open the door for other questions. The play gives us a glance into Hinckley’s mind from his youth until today. Sam Sherburne, who played Hinckley, brilliantly conveyed the episodes of mental illness, hallucinations, delusions, and obsessions as well as the music talent that revealed Hinckley’s determination to be famous and seek attention through music. It begins with Hinckley and his fascination to seek the attention of Jody Foster and her character made famous in the movie Taxi Driver. Meghan Cary skillfully played all of the woman’s roles including Hinckley’s mother, the Jodie Foster character from Taxi Driver, the psychologist and many others. In addition, her music and vocal talents were highlighted in her sweet voice. While Russ Widdall displayed his wide dramatic range in his portrayal of all of the men’s characters beginning with the accent of John Kennedy, Hinckley’s father, the psychiatrist, news reporters and more. Both Cary and Widdall played the various roles so well that you had to think twice before realizing it was the same actors playing the many characters.

The fast moving play reveals schizophrenia as the basis for John Hinckley’s actions and his obsession for being famous. The story tells of his early life in Texas, his life-long mental health issues, his young adult life, his love of books and going to Barnes and Noble book store, the shooting, the diagnosis of schizophrenia, the trial, verdict and the sentence. The themes, amongst others, of mental illness, gun control and questions of the legal system were revealed. Conspiracy theories have developed. As a result of Hinckley’s not guilty verdict by reason of insanity he has freedom to move around the Washington D.C. area with little or no supervision. Don’t be surprised if you see John Warnock Hinckley reading a book in a Barnes and Noble store near you.

If you were ever curious about the mind of an assassin you will want to see Hinckley.


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