Never the Sinner
Many years ago I read Compulsion, Meyer Levin's fictional novelization of the Leopold and Loeb case. It was a great read, both suspenseful and provocative in its presentation. Last night I saw a production of Never the Sinner, playwright John Logan's taut dramatization of the essentials of the same case. In Logan's telling the focus was on the relationship of the two young men, Leopold and Loeb who either in spite of or because of their contrasting personalities formed an erotic bond that became one aspect of their criminal behavior.
Logan's emphasis of this relationship as what he called "a love story" provides sensation and titillation of a sort, but there is also the relationship of Robert Crowe, the prosecutor, and Clarence Darrow, the renowned defense attorney who represent two different approaches to the case that are fundamentally in opposition, not just because they are on opposite sides of the court room.
The production by Project 891 Theatre Company, a newcomer to Chicago's crowded theater scene, is excellent with great direction by Michael Rashid with the support of a talented crew. The key quartet of players is also excellent with each actor shining in his respective role: Ron Popp and Matt Hays as Leopold and Loeb (Hays was particularly effective as a charmer who had the whole house mesmerized by his gregarious amorality); and, Robert Kaercher and Gary Murphy as Crowe and Darrow (both of whom had fine moments with Murphy moving in his compassionate arguments for preserving the lives of the two young men and opposing capital punishment). The scenes shifted back and forth quickly both in time and from court room to the trysts of Leopold and Loeb. This was handled efficiently with a staging that at moments had a ballet-like choreographic quality.
I enjoyed this fine production by a new theater company and I look forward to seeing more of their work in the future.