WINDY CITY TIMES
This article shared 1943 times since Wed Sep 13, 2006
Playwright: book, music and lyrics by Stephen Dolginoff
At: Bailiwick Repertory at Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Phone: 773-883-1090; $25-$30
Runs through: Oct. 8
BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
'You've been reading too much Nietzsche—and FAR too many detective magazines!' warns Nathan Leopold when his buddy, Richard Loeb, proposes calculated homicide as an expression of their superior intellect. He's right. If these two privileged slackers had read more hawkshaw whodunits, they would have seen the flaws in their 'perfect crime' scheme, and their names would not be invoked, to this day, as the hallmark of sociopathic adolescent rage.
But author-composer-lyricist Stephen Dolginoff's portrait of the students whose abduction and murder of a randomly-selected child shocked American society in 1924 is not a docudrama, but a fable of seduction. We never see the victim or the brilliant attorney who delivers the killers from the death penalty or the hated father sparking Richard's antisocial impulses. Dolginoff, instead, presents us with the classic tale of a love-besotted nerd dazzled by his idealized paramour into abetting the latter in the violence comprising their sexual foreplay. To be sure, since Leopold's the one recounting the story to his parole board, his account might be understandably—well, biased.
None of that matters, however, in a genre with no proscriptions on criminals as heroes ( cf. Sweeney Todd, Assassins ) . Dolginoff's score is constructed along blatantly romantic lines, replete with pulsating tempos, sweetly symmetric harmonics and nary a Sondheim dissonance from overture to finale. With the consequences of our protagonists' co-dependency conveniently distanced, we are free to revel in straightforward hymns of adoration ( Everybody Wants Richard ) as well as grotesquely ironic odes to cozy companionship ( 'There's nothing like a warm, romantic fire,' croons Richard as he and Nathan cuddle before a recently-torched warehouse ) and eternal devotion ( 'We'll be together for life—plus ninety-nine years,' they exult, after hearing their sentence ) .
Scott Gryder and Eric Martin are perfectly cast, their voices blending with the silken grace of aerialists, while Lee Peters' direction keeps the pace briskly seamless throughout the 90-minute running time—the vocal equivalent of a marathon for only two singers. And in 2006, the horror of the events depicted are sufficiently removed from our moral consciousness to permit the mythologizing of these legendary ( but oh-so-lovable ) bad boys.
This article shared 1943 times since Wed Sep 13, 2006
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