There has been a growing trend and love for the roaring 1920s, especially among millennials and others who long for the days of old. The idea of being transported back to a simpler time of flappers and gangsters has such an appeal that some might think that anything associated with the time period must be a hit.
Based on the infamous 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder, the story begins in 1958 with Nathan Leopold at his parole hearing. He recounts his friendship with Richard Loeb and tells the story of how they killed a young boy. The show focuses less on the crime itself and more on Leopold’s sexual and romantic lust for Loeb. Throughout the show, every wrong action that Leopold makes is framed as him not having a choice because his desire to please the man he adores is too strong.
The two friends went on to create what they called the perfect crime. They thought that they had devised an unsolvable mystery for the police but in the end justice prevailed.
In most cases, this idea would have played well: one partner being so intoxicated by the other that they literally can’t think straight is not a new one. In fact, it could be viewed as a twisted romance, which is fun. It even had a leg up by featuring a homosexual couple rather than yet another heterosexual relationship. Sadly though, the casting missed the mark when it came to the ages of these two actors and that hurt the theme of the show.
Equinox co-founder and producer Colin Roybal played the hopelessly devoted Nathan Leopold, and MSU Denver senior Maximus Nielsen played the twisted Richard Loeb.
Roybal’s performance of Leopold was sympathetic. One could feel the longing and desire that he had for his best friend, allowing the audience to yearn for him while at the same time urging him not to go down this path.
Nielsen’s performance stole the show, though, one-hundred percent. His understanding and depth of the character was astonishing, and his facial expressions terrified and intrigued all at the same time. With simple glances Nielsen showed the perversion and desire in the heart of Richard Leopold. The audience was both captivated and repulsed by the character- on the edge of their seats while shaking in horror.
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Director Patrick Brownson discussing the show.
The show was hindered by the age difference in these actors. Roybal and Nielsen are only ten years different in reality, but the age gap seemed far more prevalent on stage. This turned some of those potentially romantic moments in the boy’s bonding into awkward experiences. Awkward not because of the actors’ performances, but for the audience witnessing a 33 year old man seduce a 23 year old boy.
The performances in the show were good but the production was just begging to be done on a larger scale. With a score that needed a full band, a setting that could have utilized more set design and a story that would have benefited from more than one costume change, added up to an intriguing tale that would be interesting to see produced larger.
“Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story” *½ (out of four stars)
Musical. Presented by Equinox Theatre, At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St. Directed by Patrick Brownson. Starring Colin Roybal and Maximus Nielsen. Through August 19. 90 minutes, no intermission. Fri and Saturday 7:30 p.m. $20-$25. 720-984-0781 or www.equinoxtheatredenver.com