"Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story" by Stephen Dolginoff
2.jpg

"Thrill Me" was first produced at New York City's 2003 Midtown International Theatre Festival, at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, Stage II and directed by Martin Charnin. It was then staged for a limited run off-Broadway by the not-for-profit York Theatre Company and Jim Kierstead, opening on May 16, 2005 and running until August 21. Directed by Michael Rupert, the production featured author Stephen Dolginoff as Leopold and Doug Kreeger as Loeb. Stephen Bogardus, John McMartin, and Rupert himself were heard in voice-overs. Shonn Wiley replaced Kreeger late in the run. Matt Bauer opened in the role of Leopold.

Synopsis

Time & Place: Chicago, 1924 / Joliet Prison Parole Board, 1958

It is 1958 at Joliet Prison, Illinois, where Nathan “Babe” Leopold faces the Parole Board for the fifth time. He tells them the facts of the “crime of the century” that sent him to prison thirty-five years earlier ("Why"). But this time he reveals more than ever, hoping it will lead to his release. In his memory, he goes back to 1924 Chicago, where, as a nineteen year old boy, he anxiously meets up with Richard Loeb, a classmate with whom he has shared friendship, sex and participation in minor crimes. Richard, who has been away at college, treats Nathan indifferently. Nathan begs to renew their relationship before separating again after the summer to attend different law schools ("Everybody Wants Richard"). Richard relents and allows Nathan to join in his activity for the evening – setting an abandoned warehouse on fire. In front of the blaze ("Nothing Like a Fire"), which arouses Richard, Nathan finally gets what he wants.

The next day, Nathan implores Richard, who is voraciously reading Nietzsche, to stop the criminal activity. Instead Richard, now empowered by the theory of the Superman, threatens to drop Nathan completely unless they create "A Written Contract" detailing that Richard will satisfy Nathan’s sexual needs only in exchange for Nathan’s expertise as his accomplice in petty crimes. Reluctantly, Nathan agrees. They sign in blood and their crime spree continues until Richard fails to live up to his end of the agreement ("Thrill Me"). Richard explains that he is bored with the misdemeanors and wants to commit a “superior” crime: the murder of a young boy ("The Plan") and a phony ransom scheme after the killing. Richard insists that their intellect and meticulous plotting will prevent them from being caught. Nathan has no choice but to agree or risk Richard’s wrath.

Back in 1958 at Joliet before the Parole Board, Nathan explains his feelings ("Way Too Far") as he recalls how Richard prepared the murder weapons and supplies: rope, a crowbar and a bottle of acid. Richard lures the victim by promising a ride in his "Roadster". While cleaning up the murder scene, Richard extols the virtues of being "Superior" to a shaken Nathan. Back at Richard’s house they compose the bogus "Ransom Note" and proceed with their plans. The next day, the newspapers reveal that, despite their careful planning, the body has been found. As a few more days go by, Nathan’s missing eye-glasses are discovered near the scene of the crime. While Nathan panics, Richard tries to calm him ("My Glasses/Just Lay Low") over the phone. When the glasses are eventually traced to Nathan, Richard helps him concoct an emergency alibi and coaches him in how to answer the cops ("I'm Trying to Think"). After Nathan is successful with the police, Richard declares their relationship over so he can protect his future as a lawyer. He reminds Nathan that everything would have been fine if the glasses hadn’t been dropped. Feeling betrayed, Nathan cuts a deal with prosecutors, turning in Richard in exchange for a lighter sentence.

When arrested, Richard realizes there is no way out and works his charms on Nathan ("Keep Your Deal With Me") by convincing him to give up the deal and accept the same punishment. While awaiting the penalty trail in his jail cell, Richard doesn't realize Nathan can hear him muttering to himself that he is truly "Afraid" despite his strong façade. Thanks to the cunning strategies of their lawyer, Clarence Darrow, they escape the death penalty and are sentenced to prison. Behind bars, Nathan finally reveals his own shocking plan: fearing the loss of Richard, he went along with the murder but stayed one step ahead the entire time, even deliberately planting his glasses, knowing that all this would ensure his desire to be together forever, or at least for "Life Plus 99 Years". Now that the whole truth has finally been exposed, back at Joliet prison Nathan is granted parole. It is a bittersweet victory; since Richard was murdered by another inmate years before, Nathan must face the outside world alone ("Finale").

Characters

Name Age Gender # of lines Solo's Duets
Nathan Leopold late teens M 5 10
Richard Loeb late teens M 2 10

Production History

Opening Venue Company
2003 Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, Stage 2 Midtown International Theatre Festival
May 16, 2005 York Theatre at St. Peter's York Theatre Company
Feb 2010 Seymour Centre (Sydney, Australia)
Apr 2011 Tristan Bates Theatre "London Fringe"
May 2011 Charing Cross Theatre (West End)
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License