The Leopold & Loeb
by John Logan
January 5-27, 2001
Directed by Terry Veal
It seems as though a
"Trial of the Century" happens along every decade, but the 1924 case
against Leopold and Loeb in Chicago has fascinated writers and filmmakers for
seventy-five years - perhaps because it has all the ingredients that make up
riveting drama - seduction, deception, and murder.
Although Mr. Logan's play is
a courtroom drama, what really moves the plot is how he investigates the
question, "Why would two teenagers who have it all - brilliance, wealth,
youth - commit the most brutal crime, one that stands apart in its
& Loeb kidnapped and killed a boy from their affluent Chicago neighborhood.
The victim, fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks, was a cousin of Richard Loeb's, but
it could have been almost anyone as the two just wanted to experience the thrill
Although they likened themselves to Nietzche's "ubermensch"
(supermen), a mistake at the crime scene led to their quick apprehension.
The saga is related in brief scenes that skip between the
trial and the developing relationship between the two young men, which results
in the crime. The scenes are intercut with reporters and newspaper accounts that
hint at the media circus that enveloped the case.
Brilliant attorney Clarence
Darrow was on the verge of retiring when he agreed to defend the boys. Much of
Darrow's dialogue in the play is derived from trial transcripts. In fact, the
play's title is a reference to Darrow's statement: "I can see sin in all
the world. And I may well hate that sin, but never the sinner."
spent most of his life fighting the death penalty, he used the case as a forum
to argue against it and save the young murderers from hanging. The
following year, Darrow took on the state of Tennessee in the famous Scopes
"Monkey Trial" - which provided the basis for the play "Inherit
"Never The Sinner"
premiered in Chicago in 1985 and won the Outer Critic's Circle Award for
Outstanding Off-Broadway Play in 1998. Earlier film depictions include Alfred
Hitchcock's "Rope", which is very loosely based on the crime.
1959's "Compulsion" dramatized a master-slave relationship
between the murderers, and the 1990's version was the sexually charged
independent film, "Swoon".
In speaking about including
"Never The Sinner" in Carpenter Square Theatre's 17th Season,
Artistic Director Rhonda Clark explains: "It immediately impressed our
entire play selection committee. It was riveting to read and seemed a powerful
piece to stage in our intimate theatre-in-the-round. Although the case occurred
in the 1920's, it is a contemporary play, and we saw the relevance to current
issues - teenagers committing senseless acts of violence, media sensationalism,
and America's ongoing debate about the death penalty, especially for youthful
offenders. The story was a vivid reminder that 'the more things change, the more
they stay the same'. It's fascinating. It is provocative subject matter. It is a
show that other Oklahoma theatres would not attempt. In short, we had to do
introduction to the script, playwright John Logan says, "To say that
Leopold and Loeb were 'monsters' is too easy. To say that they were 'evil' is
too facile. I find Darrow's tact more relevant. Leopold and Loeb were human
beings. Just like the rest of us. THey were tormented. They were brutal. They
lacked any true moral, ethical compass. They could not find their way in our
sunlit world, so they embraced the darkness. In that darkness, they had only