Review: Theater Within’s Never the Sinner

The Theater Within’s latest production, Never the Sinner, in Indianapolis’ Fountain Square, is a rich encounter with good and evil. The play is both refreshing and disturbing as it dissects Leopold and Loeb’s “Trial of the Century.” As a newcomer to the Indianapolis theater scene, the Theater Within sets itself apart with difficult dramas and challenging subject matter. For a swift change of pace from normal Hoosier theater, the Theater Within’s latest offering is leaving audiences satisfied and puzzled at the same time.

The story of the Leopold and Loeb revolves around the murder of a young chum of the two central characters. Told through a nonlinear script, where time is diffracted, the trial unfolds to reveal deeper motivations behind the heinous crime committed by Leopold and Loeb. Never the Sinner, under Rod Issac’s expert direction, probes ever so gently at homosexuality and evil as synonymous terms during this roaring twenties trial. Issac is delicate enough in his direction to allow the play more questions then answers, giving the audience the power of an unseen judge to make decisions for themselves.

Scot McKim’s sparsely constructed set immediately establishes courtroom, but is flexible enough to represent through imagination every location in the play. And with the most basic use of front light, McKim’s lighting design is utilitarian enough to further and even suggest the plays most gnawing questions.

Zach Stonerock, as Nathan Leopold, gives a cool performance as the elegant and shameless accomplice to Loeb’s crime. Stonerock creates a beautiful arch for his character as Leopold’s remorse and hidden love surface. His partner in crime and on stage, Nate Walden as Richard Loeb, exhibits a real command of the era in his speech patterns and physicality. As the bubbly convicted heart throb Loeb, Walden is charming, causing audience to thirst for thrill almost as much as his character does.

The ensemble, introduced at first as reporters, are extremly tight in their performances. Rann DeStefano, Krista Searles and Mark Applegate expertly round out the play donning a myriad of characters from scene to scene. Bill Becker, as the prosecuting attorney Robert Crowe, creates wonderful momentum through the first act as the state representative hungry for a hanging. However, his counterpart, John Carver in the role of Charles Darrow, troubles the natural flow and of the play and the momentum built by Becker. Sadly, Carver fails to live up to Darrow’s sharp-tongued reputation.

The work being done at the Theater Within is a valuable addition not only to Indianapolis theater, but also to Indianapolis art. This Indianapolis nonprofit organization is making great strides in the Circle City, simply by not pandering to audiences. As a member of the party behind that fourth wall at the Theater Within, audiences are considered thoughtful and intelligent human beings, with something valid to contribute to the artistic process.

See Never the Sinner at the Theater Within in the Indianapolis cultural district, Fountain Square through November 14. For ticket and show time information, visit the Theater Within’s website. Stay tuned to Fun City for all the latest on Indianapolis events.

Make it a date night this weekend! Take someone you love out for something different. Grab some dinner the show at any of these great Indianapolis restaurants. After the show, carry on your own post-show discussion over a cocktail at these great Indianapolis bars. For fun in Indy, turn to Fun City!