Watching Never the Sinner, we long for some sign of contrition or even real feeling, but the play gives us only ambiguous moments. Leopold seems deeply shaken after the murder itself; an old girlfriend of Loeb's (wonderfully played by Cary Seston) talks about his fear of the dark; the two men have a conversation about whether, if they're hanged, they'll be hanged together.
Clarence Darrow represented Leopold and Loeb in court, acknowledging their guilt but pleading for their lives. Much of the second act of Never the Sinner is given over to the attorneys' arguments, taken directly from court transcripts. It's here that the production falters. Jim Hunt's Darrow is far from subtle. He does have some moving moments, but he also shouts far too much. Steven Miles, as the prosecutor, does somewhat better, but there are times when the two men stand side by side yelling in almost identical tones and at almost identical volume. Their words get lost as a result.
Marc Burg and Brian Mallgrave star in Never the Sinner.
It's a sad commentary on our punitive times to realize how futile and sentimental Darrow's arguments about the immorality of the death penalty and his clients' youth would seem in a contemporary courtroom, but Theatre Group does well to remind us of them.