Highly Recommended **** I must begin my review of John Logan’s “historical” saga, “Never the Sinner”, now on stage at Victory Gardens Theater, by saying that the director for this production is Gary Griffin. That said, anyone who knows theater, knows that having Griffin as the director brings more depth to any story (musical, comedy or drama). Logan began this epic tale of “The Crime of the Century”, the story of Leopold and Loeb and their murder of young neighbor, Bobby Franks back in 1924. Wow! It won’t be long before people will be recognizing the 100th anniversary of this terrible, tragedy for the City of Chicago.
For those who do not know the story, two college students, both living lives of privilege, Nathan Leopold ( solidly played by Japhel Balaban) and Richard Loeb ( Jordan Brodess in an award winning performance) decide to experiment and see what it would feel like to just kill someone. The person they select is a young wealthy lad, small in stature, and one who would come with them as he was somewhat related to the Loeb family. These boys have it all: good looks, strong family ties, wealth and are highly educated. Their lives are just missing some excitement and lacking some other things as told in this tale. As we learn in this story, while Loeb has no problem with women, Leopold is a homosexual. Loeb uses this and the love that Leopold shows him to get his way. There is indeed a love story between these two men at a time when this type of life-style was not acknowledged.
This dynamic 95 minutes of story telling takes us deep into the mentality of these men and what the newspapers were seeing and writing. We also meet the lawyers involved in the case’ the District Attorney Crowe ( a powerful performance by Derek Hasenstab) and for the young men, Clarence Darrow (deftly handled by Chicago favorite Keith Kupferer). They present their cases to the Judge (which is represented by the audience) and as you will see, there are many surprises in the story line. Amazing for the time period in which the story takes place in. This is a solid cast through and through with the other cast members, handling several roles. They are Demetrios Troy (reporter 3), Celeste M. Cooper handling all the female roles and Bill Bannon as reporter 1.
This play is not about the technical pieces that make it complete. They are strong with a set by Kurtis Boetcher that allows for a section to elevate, and for the green walls to serve as screens for the projections by Michael Stanfill. The lighting (Keith Parham) is used to great impact and even has sudden lights on the audience to make sure that no one drifts off. Andre Pluess handles the sound and Janice Pytel has a keen eye for detail in her costume design. Aimee Plant’s props are few, but fitting making the complete recipe sheer perfection. To be honest, it is indeed the script and the direction of the letter perfect cast by Griffin in bringing this story to life. There have been many stories dealing with the “Crime of the Century” and how these brilliant young men, these “supermen” who could do anything, were caught because of one little mistake. I won’t get into this, as not to ruin it for those who are going to see the story for the first time. It is very simple, so pay close attention.
Tuesdays 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
There are many Public Program dates, special events and discussion groups which can be found on the website. Also-accessible programs are available.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Never the Sinner”