Seen Off Broadway: Almost a century before the first Amber Alert, the so-called crime of the century was committed in Chicago in 1924 when Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb killed a 12-year-old boy, just for the thrill of it. Now at the York Theatre Company is Stephen Dolginoff’s Thrill Me, a musical retelling of the sordid tale. The musical is surprisingly potent, especially considering that virtually every single day there is a story about a child abduction somewhere in the US. Dolginoff’s score is quite melodic and often very haunting. He explores the relationship between these two men that seems to transcend their crime, or rather, crimes since they were habitual offenders; their spree ended when the police tracked them down after Leopold left his glasses at the crime scene. Thrill Me takes the audience on a journey showing the duo’s early lesser offenses, the planning of the murder, through the parole hearing of the surviving killer (I won’t give away who is still alive when the show ends). In total, there are 18 musical numbers in an hour and a half and the two actors portraying Leopold and Loeb (Matt Bauer and Doug Kreeger, respectively) acquit themselves nicely (pun intended) as two weak men dangerously dependent on each other. Believe it or not, there is a good guy and a bad guy in this treacherous tale.
The design is admittedly low-key but exceedingly effective considering the events on stage. The set, designed by James Morgan is made up of a few crates that serve as tables, chairs, and benches. Across the back are three tiled columns that resemble subway pylons except that they are painted pitch black, as are the other set pieces. The proscenium consists of a series of dirty windows that could have been salvaged from a warehouse that the duo burns early on. Jennifer Paar’s costuming of the two characters is decidedly elegant, giving the killers an upper crust air that was ultimately their undoing. Both actors looked great in the clean, square lines of the period suits with Leopold in a dark blue ensemble while Loeb was dressed in muted brown tones. Aside from the two actors, the third co-star of the show is Thom Weaver’s lighting. Deceptively simple looking, Weaver imbued the stage with a haunting glow that lent the proceedings the appropriate gravity. His one aberration from stark white light was for a "love scene" as the two watched the aforementioned warehouse go up in flames. With such a talented roster of actors and designers, it would be a crime to miss Thrill Me. –Mark A. Newman