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Relationships Can Be Murder

By Gary Wien

originally published: 11/21/2015

Relationships  Can Be Murder

In 1924, two wealthy, intelligent college students kidnapped and murdered a teenager in Chicago.  The crime and its trial (led by famous defense attorney, Clarence Darrow) captivated the nation’s attention.  Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb were the two behind the murder, which was the O.J. Simpson trial of its time.  Their ‘complicated’ relationship is explored in the musical Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, which has its New Jersey premiere at Luna Stage in December.

Thrill Me takes the audience inside the minds’ of the two 19 year old boys.  The play focuses less on the crime and the trial of the century and more on the friendship (platonic and sexual) of Leopold and Loeb.   Portraying the duo is Joseph Bigelow and Dean Linnard, both making their Luna Stage debuts.  The production is directed by Luna Stage artistic director Cheryl Katz with musical direction by Andy Peterson.  And music is vitally important to the play.  A piano player performs live and with much of the play sung, there is music almost throughout.

“Nobody ever understood the purpose of the crime,” explained Katz.  “Nobody understood why two boys that had everything going for them would do such a random act of violence for no apparent reason.  Thrill Me explores that question from a hypothetical standpoint.  Nobody knows what these two men said to each other in private, so the play puts forth a hypothesis of why they did this crime.”

The two-character play was nominated for a Drama Desk award for Best Musical and has since been translated into 10 languages with over 100 productions in 15 countries. Notable stagings include Los Angeles, Chicago, London’s West End and current long-running versions all across Asia.  The Luna Stage production will be the first time the play has been produced professionally in the New York region since its Off-Broadway premiere in 2005.

Katz attended New York University with Thrill Me’s playwright, Stephen Dolginoff, and has known about the play from early on in its development.  She said she was fascinated by the story and loved its music.  The play had been on her radar for quite a while and this season seemed like the perfect fit.



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“I love historically based fiction,” said Katz.  “It’s one of my favorite types of writing to work on.  This is a play about obsession and I think we’re all attracted to obsession at some level.  I personally have a dark side and I think I’m always attracted to materials that explore the dark side, which many of us have.  We keep our dark sides intact and live normal, moral lives, but it’s fascinating to temporarily inhabit people who don’t.”

Many historians have suggested that Leopold and Leob were heavily influenced by the works of Nietzsche; the concept of being ‘supermen’ whose intellect made them unaccountable to normal morality and laws.  The pair were also fans of the detective novels of the day.  So much so that the ransom note they wrote is thought to be lifted from one of the novels they had read.  Loeb was obsessed with crime and wanted to commit the perfect crime just to prove it could be done.   Leopold was obsessed with Loeb and is thought to have gone along with the plan so their friendship would continue.

Defense attorney Darrow described their relationship as “weird and almost impossible,” suggesting that the friendship itself helped the two commit a crime they were almost incapable of doing on their own.  They were called thrill seekers. They wanted to experience what it was like to take someone’s life away.

“Their story took place in the 20s when organized crime was running rampant,” said Katz.  “The moral fiber that had been thought to hold society together was crumbling and people were giving into their hedonistic tendencies.  I think any time that happens in our country, there’s always a backlash — a pull against the drive towards hedonism.  This was like the perfect storm, a moment in time for the country and the culture to react to a crime that was void of any moral sensibility.”

As Katz notes, random acts of violence happen far too often in today’s world.  A crime like Leopold and Loeb’s might only have lasted until the next murder came across the news cycle.   But maybe it would have rose above the fray.  The crime had everything — highly intelligent teenagers from wealthy families, thrill seeking, a homosexual love affair, and the idea that the perfect crime was possible.  The more you learn about the pair, the more you wonder if they didn’t succeed.  Perhaps a part of them wanted to be caught after all.  To show that the perfect crime does not go unnoticed.  Maybe they were smarter than we think.

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story

December 3-20

Luna Stage (555 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ)

Photo by Christopher Drukker.





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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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