Sheep employs their usual writer/director team - Joey Hamburger (who also plays one of the assassins) and Michael Hugh Torsch (with a small but memorable cameo as Germany's Kaiser Wilhem II). The 90-minute play is bookended by the assassination, and in between we see what led to it and learn a bit about the soon to be murdered Archduke. Basically the Slavic people didn't want to be under Austria-Hungarian control, and a group of Serbians therefore plotted to kill the Archduke on his visit to Sarajevo. The play lays out all of the players and maneuvering in a fairly easy to follow way, mixed with scenes of Franz at home and at work. The two stories converge in Sarajevo for their tragic end.
Although there is much humor and shenanigans, the humanity of the characters is emphasized in such a way that it's hard to know which side to root for. Of course it's not right for the Slavic people to be governed by an outside entity that doesn't have their best interests as heart, but the Archduke seems like a genuinely good guy. As portrayed by the affable Michael Rogers, Franz comes off as a regular, good-natured fellow, one who loves his wife so much that he married her despite the fact that, due to her non-royal lineage, neither she nor their children could inherit his titles. In Sarajevo, he gives a heartfelt speech about the divisiveness within a country that speaks directly to today, which only serves to make his death feel more tragic, however noble the assassins' cause may have been.
|Matthew Saxe, Jacob Mobley, Michael Rogers, Josiah Thompson,|
and Isis Rose Page (photo by Dan Norman)
Like the other Sheep Theater shows I've seen, Franz Ferdinand is smart, funny, engaging, and relevant. This new-ish company is one to keep your eye on.