It begins with a shriek. … It ends with a shot!
If you could get away with murder, would you do it? Would you plan it so thoroughly, there is no way you would be caught? How careful would you be? These are the questions that probably went through the minds of Leopold and Loeb, two University of Chicago graduates from wealthy families, when they planned their first and only murder in 1924. British writer Patrick Hamilton thought about this real-life case and turned it into a book, which became a play and later a movie directed by the Master of Suspense, or Hitch as he was known by friends, Alfred Hitchcock. Murder is always a good topic because curious people want to see what happened, how it happened, who did it, why they did it and, this is very important, will they get their asses caught?
The four-time nominee for Best Director showed in nerve-wrecking detail how to commit the perfect murder and still get caught. Two Harvard students, Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo (Burt Grinstead and David Huynh, respectively) try to get away with it. Standing in their way, is the cavalier and bourgeoisie Rupert Cadell (wonderfully played by Donnie Smith). Brandon and Granno, as Brandon kindly refers to his partner-in-crime, killed fellow Harvard man Kenneth Raglan (quickly played by Kyle Anderson). Apparently, these two geniuses wanted to prove that in order to commit the “perfect” murder it takes cautious planning from individuals who are superior than the regular Joe, who, would think of committing murder but wouldn’t actually do it. The
psychological effect is what does these two clowns in. On a dark and rainy night Wyndham and Charles decide what to do with the dead body. They place it temporarily in a wooden treasure chest which sits beautifully in the decorative living room. The room looks warm and inviting in contrast to the evil reminder of their deed that sits comfortable around the chaos. Back and forth they discuss what to do and how quickly they can do it. They have to speed up the process because they are expecting guests for dinner. Too late to cancel, they prepare the chest, covering it with a white floral print linen cloth and appetizers on top. These men are insane but their plan works. The guests and the French maid Sabot (Deborah Marlowe was exquisite as the bumbling yet kind maid) aren’t aware of what happened prior to their arrival.
It’s clear that Brandon runs the show. Charles takes his friend’s orders like a dutiful servant. The guests come in. Mrs. Debenham (Elizabeth Herron), Sir Johnstone Kently (Carl Johnson) and the smug Rupert Cadell (Donnie Smith’s performance was fantastic). Cadell notices something is wrong with Brandon and Granillo but he waits it out to see what unfolds. Director Ken Sawyer does an amazing job in bringing excitement and fear in this all too familiar tale of murder gone wrong. The writer Hamilton was inspired by killers Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb who methodically planned the murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924. Leopold died from a heart attack in 1971 in Puerto Rico and Loeb was killed by another inmate in 1936.
A wonderful and brilliant show filled with intrigue and secrecy. Everything takes place in the living room and it looks amazing. Helen Harwell does an amazing job in creating a welcoming and appealing atmosphere and Paula Higgins taste in clothes is remarkable. Everyone is dressed impeccable. Striped suits and shirts, topped with a pocket watch or a cane looks stunning. The way the dresses flow with each movement and the sharp women’s hats are exceptional. This is the first production of the 27th season and it’s a hell of a exciting start.
Rope plays Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. until Sunday, October 28th, playing at the Crossley Theatre located at 1760 N. Gower Street in Los Angeles. For ticket information, call (323) 462-8460 or log on to www.actorsco-op.org