There aren’t many alive today who can say that they remember the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago in 1924 or the heinous crime that brought Hyde Park, The University of Chicago and the city’s wealthy and privileged into the national spotlight.
The closest that you are going to get is by visiting the historic Biograph Theater at 2433 North Lincoln Avenue and attending a performance of John Logan’s Never The Sinner directed by Gary Griffin.
Nathan Freudenthal Leopold (played by Japhet Balaban) and Richard Albert Loeb (played by Jordan Brodess) were too very young students at The University of Chicago. They were sons of prominent Chicago businessmen who lived in the wealthy Hyde Park neighborhood. Leopold was enthralled by the handsome Loeb and together they set out to commit the perfect murder.
After meticulous planning they ultimately kidnapped 14 year-old Robert “Bobby” Franks who was a cousin of Loeb’s and walking home from the Harvard School. Franks had no reason to suspect what was about to happen and had actually played tennis recently at Loeb’s home.
Using a chisel to bludgeon young Franks and ultimately strangling him to death they burned his body with acid to avoid identification and dumped the body in a culvert near Wolf Lake.
They intended to extort $10,000 in ransom money from Franks’ family but before Frank’s father Jacob could deliver the money a construction worker discovered the body along with a pair of glasses. Those glasses turned out to have been dropped by Leopold during the disposal of the body and led to his arrest and the arrest of his partner Loeb.
The case made national headlines and the famous trial attorney Clarence Darrow (played by Keith Kupferer) took up their defense. Darrow’s 12 hour argument to spare the two young murderers from execution became legendary and was successful. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936 and Leopold was later paroled in 1958 and lived the rest of his life in Puerto Rico all the while still having a photo of Loeb on his wall.
I had the opportunity to get a short preview at one of the Victory Gardens Theater free public programs related to the play where the public is given a behind the scenes look at the production and discussions about different present day topics that relate to the crime and the production.
I plan on attending this Saturday’s full production and will follow up with a review that I am sure, based on my short preview, will be a powerful and thought provoking performance.
The show runs Tuesday through Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 7:30pm and Sundays at 3:00pm through December 6, 2015.
You can get the full scoop on the show, the cast, order tickets and learn about public programs on their website HERE.
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