It's worth remembering that before John Wilkes Booth became the first successful presidential assassin, he was a Shakespearean actor, and apparently a damn good one. Early reviews of his plays referred to his "natural genius" and his status as "the most promising young actor on the American stage." So it takes an equally brilliant actor to bring this fascinating monster to life, to convey both his misguided sense of vengeance and his imposing theatricality — his demons and his dramaturgy alike. In this regard, Nicholas Richberg exceeded all expectations in his embodiment of Booth, one of a number of presidential killers explored in Stephen Sondheim's offbeat musical Assassins, from Zoetic Stage. Resembling the real Booth with frightening attention to detail in hair, makeup, and costuming, Richberg anchored a show that is, by its nature, all over the place — providing, in the character of this talented racist, its panache and its fire and even its soul. Barbara Bradshaw, a former New Times Best Actress winner, recently told a reporter that even if she were playing the biggest villain in a show, she needed to play her with the knowledge that she didn't know she was a villain. This was certainly the case with Richberg's Booth, who achieved the unlikely feat of making us genuinely care about the man who murdered our greatest president.