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A CurtainUp Review
Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story
The playwright's first play, Never the Sinner tells the story of two very privileged, very young men and their cynical, random crime that intriguingly lacks a traditional sense of motive. It is a "social experiment," a "philosophical exercise." This is a tale about Richard Loeb (Evan Jonigkeit), insouciant and narcissistic, who enjoys being seen as a criminal mastermind-- and Nathan Leopold, Jr. (Brian Kurtas) with his psycho-homoerotic obsession, who felt that Loeb's brilliance "reflects on me and makes me beautiful too." Throw in the public's fascinated outrage, the ensuing media circus (reporters Robb Hunter, Jessica Bedford, Matthew Lorenz), the state's attorney's (Eric Kramer) reasoned popular arguments, and finally Clarence Darrow's (Dan Kern) strategy for the defense. And you've got a play that won't quit --or acquit.
This is a good choice for Mauckingbird. Tightly written in short scenes, the playwright skips the boring parts and catapults you into the dark story, which makes the director's job easier-- not to take anything away from Artistic Director Peter Reynolds' button-down direction. And despite a late casting change the cast is rock solid, equity and non-equity alike.
Marie Anne Chiment's stage set of fairly narrow drops and a few chairs is from the skip-the-crap school of scenic design. While facilitating the action it lends the substantial feel of a big show to an intimate space. Chiment, also the costume designer, got the costumes just right.
Note on the playwright: In the early 90s Logan revisited "crime of the century" drama with his play, Hauptmann, but he has long since left the stage behind and gone on to Hollywood, writing the story and/or screenplay for big time movies like Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999), Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000), The Aviator (Martin Scorsese, 2004), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton, 2007). For HBO: RKO 281.
Mauckingbird's mission is to produce professional gay-themed theatre (and secondarily, classics, musicals, and infrequently produced works). With just three productions behind them and this one tearing up the stage, they look like old hands -- assured and accomplished. A welcome addition to the Philadelphia theater scene, this new kid in town offers intelligently selected and well produced gay-related work performed for thinking audiences of whatever persuasion.
Editor's Note: For Curtainup's review of this play when it premiered in DC and the Off-Broadway transfer, see DC and Off Broadway
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