The kidnap and murder of the Lindbergh baby remains one of the media’s “trials of the century, ” a hype fest that turned an outrage into a freak show. But the tragic crime is almost overshadowed, playwright John Logan maintains, by the tragic outcome of its trial.
Hauptmann (Jeremy Trager) narrates the story of his demise. A German immigrant with a criminal record in the Old Country, authorities connected Hauptmann to the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr., through the ransom money, among other evidence; witnesses claimed to have seen Hauptmann spending the gold certificates paid for the child. But the problem-plagued investigation (suspects who committed suicide) and the prosecution’s flawed evidence (legally blind witnesses, equipment falsely attributed to Hauptmann) weren’t enough to stop the jury from sending Hauptmann to New Jersey’s electric chair, “Old Sparky.” Logan suggests America’s xenophobia and bias against the poor really killed Hauptmann, prejudices that still trouble us today.
Trager handles the piece’s demanding monologues ably, although his sarcasm and resignation occasionally devolve into whining. Chris Amos captures Lindbergh’s competence and confidence, demonstrating Logan’s claim that the Lindberghs were the closest thing to royalty America had. BoHo’s tiny space enhances Stephen Genovese’s staging; Hauptmann’s claustrophobic cell transforms easily in an overcrowded courtroom or intimidating interrogation cell. Ultimately, the audience is left with the nagging doubt: was justice served or was a scapegoat sacrificed? (Lisa Buscani)
At Heartland Studio, 7016 North Glenwood, (866)811-4111. Through April 21.