Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Never The Sinner"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Steve Capra

"Never The Sinner

A Review by Steve Capra

Through April eighteenth, the Lyric Stage, in Boston, is producing a play called "Never the Sinner", by John Logan. It's about Nathan Leopold and Dick Loeb, two young men convicted in 1924 of murdering a little boy, in Illinois. In a highly publicized court case, they pled guilty and were defended by none other than Clarence Darrow, who saved them from the gallows (they were sentenced to life imprisonment).

It's a terrible script, without conflict or insight, and a terrible production, without a spark of life. But there's worse: the play is poisonously hateful. Leopold and Loeb were gay, and "Never the Sinner" is maliciously homophobic. There's no denying its message: homosexuals are monsters. Homosexuality is equated with murder: Leopold aids Loeb in the murder in exchange for his sexual favors. We're explicitly told that the crime is the product of their relationship. It's considered damning evidence that Loeb doesn't have sex with his female companion; apparently a heterosexual side would at least make him half human. Worse yet, when Darrow pleads in their defense - in their defense, mind you - he tells us the problem is something lacking in their nature.

The Lyric might respond that the story is true. The response is obvious: countless innocent gay couples have been persecuted, but Logan didn't write about them. The Lyric might tell us that we're not meant to generalize, but there'd no point is telling a story if we weren't expected to find it significant.

Art exists in a social context. Perhaps the Lyric will claim it's not heard of Matthew Shepard or Billy Jack Gaither, both murdered recently because they were gay.

As any writer or director can tell you, there are many approaches to a story, and many interpretations to a script. Logan shows no intent except to demonize gays. Just so, Director Spiro Veloudos (the Lyric's "Producing Artistic Director") makes the characters into stereotypes, cardboard freaks, dwelling on their sexuality.

It's impossible to imagine theater more offensive than this. "Never the Sinner" does for gays what "The Eternal Jew" did for Jews: it dehumanizes them. The Lyric has more money than integrity, and it's an outrage that The Mass. Cultural Council and the Boston Cultural Council fund this crap. Shame on them. Shame on Logan. Shame on the Lyric.

Steve Capra

[ Click to read Larry Stark's review ]

"Never The Sinner" (till 18 April)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON

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