Living in sin

By Karina Brown

-When 19-year-old boys want a thrill, they usually go to parties, play cards and listen to music. When Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold wanted thrills, they turned to psychology, murder and fame.

The first thrill murder case of America is brought back to life 80 years later by NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance. Set in 1920s Chicago, “Never the Sinner” is a story of murder, homophobia, media frenzy, the controversy of capital punishment and, most surprisingly, love.

The story written by John Logan and directed by Patricia L. Ridge displays various aspects of the true lives of the 19-year-old murderers Leopold and Loeb.

The stage is set in the courtroom, but the audience is taken to the days when the two young men met and to their time spent in jail. The audience follows as they murder and is present when the trial starts to unfold.

“Everybody has a little bit of a murderer inside,” said Justin Mentell, a junior theatre arts major who plays Loeb, when asked about how he felt playing a murderer.

To prepare for the role, the cast did numerous improv routines and activities to get in the mindsets of the criminals. The actors also researched the case to get a detailed understanding. Mentell clarified his previous statement by saying, “Of course I would never murder. But it’s not too extremely difficult to see where they are coming from.”

However, as audacious as the crime and trial may be, it is not the main focus of the play. The true story lies in the relationship/romance between Leopold and Loeb.

“We didn’t focus so much on the murder but more on the actual relationship of Leopold and Loeb,” said Chris O’Brien, a theatre arts major who plays Leopold. “We had to understand how Leopold would come to the point where Loeb would call the shots and Leopold would do whatever he wanted. Leopold’s main desire was approval.”

The two suffered from ubermensch, which means they felt that they were supreme beings or supermen.

This superiority complex led to the first thrill killing in the history of America, which was committed simply for pleasure, Ridge said.

“Eighty years later, America is not as shocked about thrill killing; people have become accustomed to it,” Ridge said. “Seeing this play live and up close and, because this is in fact a true story, hopefully this will restore some of the horror to the audience.”