Project 891’s first full-scale production examines the Leopold and Loeb case, one of the Jazz Age’s most notorious criminal trials. John Logan’s script delves into minds of two murderers dedicated to committing the perfect crime.
Leopold (Ron Popp) and Loeb (Matt Hays) murder a local boy and shortly confess; their trial then becomes a forum for the death penalty debate. Popp captures Leopold’s arrogance and tenderness; Hays’ high-energy approach occasionally misses opportunities to express his character’s depth.
Michael Rashid’s rapid-fire direction keeps the action moving; while the pacing sometimes overwhelms the ensemble, the show’s energy stays lively. Film designer Jim Vendiola’s integration of found footage from the era and new work created for the production gives the show extra depth. Anatomical murals and birds of prey portraits lend the set the same clinical coldness that was Leopold and Loeb’s worst enemy. (Lisa Buscani)
Project 891 Theatre Company’s “Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story” plays at the Chemically Imbalanced Theatre, 1420 W. Irving Park, through August 2.