Never The Sinner, Still Shocking by Joan Baker


It was a heinous crime! It shocked the country!

Two brilliant young men…one from a wealthy, socially prominent Chicago family and the other a scholarly, quiet type…killed a 14-year-old boy to find out what it felt like to kill someone!

The murder of Bobby Franks shocked the American conscience in part because it was so inexplicable. It was killing for the thrill of it. America in the mid-1920’s could barely comprehend such a concept.

Sam Bass Theatre’s current production  of Never the Sinner by John David Logan and directed by Ashley Zeh is the tale of Nathan Leopold, Jr,, a quiet, intellectual young man, and Richard Loeb, a thrill-seeking psychotic who manipulates his way through life, and the murder of Bobby Franks. It is also a glimpse of one of the powerhouse legal minds of the 20th century, Clarence Darrow, and how Darrow’s passionate opposition to the death penalty brought him to defend these two young men.

Brandon Coy as Nathan Leopold captures the scholarly, less socially adept quality one might associate with a scholarly type of that era. Felix Ferris as Richard Loeb projects a cold, sarcastic demeanor appropriate for a spoiled young man with too much money and too little compassion. But for me the two shinning lights were Frank Benge and Cory Grabenstein. Benge captures the essence of the aging but still magnificent legal lion Clarence Darrow as he fights passionately against the death penalty. Grabenstein is at his best when he is jousting with his mighty adversary, keeping it tightly in control but real. Rounding out the cast are Logan Vohs, and Matthew Farmer and Alana Gudknecht, who assume multiple roles and do an admirable job of keeping them solidly defined throughout the show.


Never the Sinner plays at the Sam Bass Theatre in Round Rock through May 30, 2015. For performance times and ticket information, contact



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