note: entire contents copyright 2017 by Richard Pacheco
The production is sparkled by driven and exciting performances and keen direction. The play by John Logan ("The Last Ship" and Tony Award for "Red" on Broadway) explores a complex and twisted relationship between two young men in search of passion, intellect, and the perfect crime.
Two lovers believed they were supermen and decided to commit a murder just to prove they were. It backfires as they botch all kinds of things which come back to haunt them as the police find the body swiftly and also ever increasing evidence against them. The play is a compelling look at their dark personalities, their evil natures and how it developed to the point of murder and its aftermath while believing they were absolved of all responsibilities for their actions.
Ian Vincent is Nathan Leopold, highly intelligent, totally awkward socially and inept in personal interactions except with Loeb. He is a law student and also studies ornithology as well in Chicago. He is shy and morally distant, downright evil and impeccably intellectual. Most people are nothing more than ants to him and he is aloof and condescending to them. He seems to care more about all variety of birds than people. Even interacting with Loeb’s girlfriend, rude, crude and dismissive of her with a determination and icy fierceness that is disturbing. Vincent is excellent as the aloof and darkly motivated, coolly condescending Leopold. He aptly captures his bumbling shyness with great skill and finesse. He also displays his dark, icy evil with dexterity and polish.
Grace Viveiros who makes her debut with the Gamm is simply stunning. She is a delicate and deft combination of hungry innocence and wily intelligence. She shines gloriously in the role.
Michael Eckenreiter is the suave, personable Loeb with his winning smile and slick demeanor, adored by ladies and fascinated crowds right until through the trial. He is like a matinee idol obsessed with his mother, devastated as much as he can be with she does not appear at trial and seems to disown him. A dapper dresser with a playboy demeanor he is also totally cold and emotionless to all but his lover Leopold. Intelligent and socially distant, he is the impulse behind this murder experiment. He knows how to manipulate, as does Leopold. Eckenreiter is on the mark as this sleek sociopath, managing to be charming and chilling simultaneously. He reveals his underlying viciousness wrapped perfectly in a polished exterior of charm and finesse delivering a chilling portrayal.
Ezra Chater (Brandon Whitehead) is a most cuckolded man with his wife wooed and won but just about every male within 50 miles including the never seen but famous Lord Byron. His sense of comic timing is wondrous.
Also on hand for the sentencing sessions, as the trial has been bypassed by legendary attorney Clarence Darrow and his adversary state’s attorney Robert Crowe.
Crowe is a determined and dedicated prosecutor with a strong moral compulsion in his nature. He sees these two as the epitome of evil deserving of the worst possible punishment, hanging. He is prepared to do whatever is legally necessary to accomplish this. His strong oral as well as legal compass keeps him on target with relentless determination. Taylor Cormier handles all this with expertise and sincerity. He is utterly convincing in his passion to get these two evil men hung. His final monologue pleading for the death penalty is poised and vividly emotional, pleading with sincerity and conviction.
His adversary is the legendary Clarence Darrow. Darrow is a lifelong opponent of capital punishment. Darrow also took part in the Scopes Monkey trial. He considered himself a country lawyer but his wit and courtroom finesse proved beyond any doubt that he was not a country bumpkin, but rather a skilled litigator with a sharp intellect and peerless wit. He went from city law to more union oriented until bribery charges forced him into criminal law. John Softcheck has the poise and presence necessary to pull of the role. His Darrow is amiable, smart and an incisive with filled with confidence and bravado. Softcheck delivers with energy and conviction. His final speech pleading for the boys not to be hanged is rich with nuance and honesty.
There are many other supporting actors in the play who play several roles each. Mark P. Fuller, Stephanie Parquette, Lee Bonia and Dennis Smith all play both reporters and other roles. They add some depth and atmosphere to the play with solid, convincing performances that are energetic and skilled.
Ed Maguire directs it all with zest and frankness. He evokes the best from his actors and offers vivid relationships between them, convincing ones. The synergy he gets from Leopold and Loeb is impressive both sincere and chilling simultaneously.
This is a splendid production that resonates with skill and depth, echoing a conflict between the restraint of law and the rabid deluded insanity of the killers who thought they were aloof and above the law, somehow super human not bound by what binds the rest of us. It is well worth seeing for not only the vivid and articulate performances but for the realms of morality it plumbs.