Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Outré Theatre Company: Thrill Me (reviews)

thrill me..Outré Theatre Company opened its production of Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center on May 22, 2014.
What would you do for love? How far would you go to do what the one you loved asked of you? And how far would you go to be with that person forever?
In 1924, wealthy law students Leopold and Loeb abducted and brutally murdered a twelve-year-old boy, dumping his body in a culvert. Now, in 1958, Nathan Leopold sits before a parole board, struggling to explain the chain of events that led up to the murder.  What he reveals is a story of dark obsessions, of ties of jealousy and sex and arrogance, which lead one man to sacrifice his soul and his freedom to have what he so desperately desires.
Skye Whitcomb directed a cast that included Conor Walton and Mike Westrich.
John Thomason reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
For a Leopold and Loeb dramatization whose focus never wavers from exactly where it should be, look no further than Thrill Me , a musical-theater labor of love from triple-threat composer/lyricist/book writer Stephen Dolginoff. Closing out Outre Theatre Company’s 2013-2014 season nine years after its off-Broadway debut, this two-man, one-act musical still has the offbeat immediacy and barebones potency of a feverish fringe festival favorite, and it offers further proof that in Outre’s finest productions, less is more. Fearless direction from Skye Whitcomb and a pair of wildly contrasting but deeply engaged performances from Mike Westrich and Conor Walton translate Dolginoff’s coffin-black vision with demented urgency.
The 16 solo piano songs, performed beautifully and funereally onstage by music director Kristen Long, resemble Sondheim both in their clever blackness and difficult fluidity, with the actors required to drift in and out of song. Both achieve this without missing a beat.
Dolginoff’s sympathies clearly lie with Nathan Leopold, whom Westrich imbues with the tragic pathos of a wronged man—a victimizer who never stopped being a victim himself, save perhaps for a twist late in the show. The actor’s inherent likeability… goes a long way at providing the emotional, relatable core of this sordid true-crime nightmare.
Walton’s Loeb, meanwhile, is a sheer terror, the show’s unfettered id… he first appears as a haunting, low-lit specter. Not until the end of the musical does he express humanlike vulnerability; for the rest of it, Walton is a larger-than-life demon… His performances …are as chilling as live theater can be.
The production’s minimalist staging receives a flawless assist from Stefanie Howard’s exceptional lighting scheme. Her work is full of subtle gradations, dangerous beauty (she effectively evokes a flickering fire during an arson scene, illuminating the actors’ faces in varying shades of red and orange) and dramatic punctuation…
Whitcomb deserves ultimate credit for respecting the darkness of this material, and for pushing Walton’s performance to truly frightening extremes. With any luck, this is the sort of show that will haunt your dreams.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Thrill Me is a creepy experience, a description that would surely please Dolginoff. He would also be pleased, I suspect, by the production at Outré Theatre Company in Boca Raton, a stark, chilling presentation, thanks to the dead-on performances of Mike Westrich (Leopold) and Conor Walton (Loeb) and the assured, minimalist direction by Outré’s artistic director, Skye Whitcomb.
Whitcomb stages Thrill Me with unflinching assurance and deadly unease. In its short past, Outré has overreached with some of its show choices, but this unnerving chamber musical plays to the company’s strengths and suggests the dramatic power of which the troupe is capable.
JW Arnold reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
Westrich… offers a nuanced performance, struggling with the moral compromises he is forced to make in order to win Loeb’s approval.
Walton, a veteran of many critically acclaimed Slow Burn Theatre productions, gives a chilling performance as Loeb, perhaps the best of his career. The audience rightly squirms in their seats as each of his increasingly evil plots is hatched with Walton’s sly grin and piercing eyes.
Both are at their best while singing Dolginoff’s alternately soaring and searing melodies. Under the music direction of Kristen Long, who also accompanies on the piano, their voices blend perfectly as Loeb pulls Leopold into each escalating emotional transaction.
Director Skye Whitcomb’s intimate staging is further accentuated by the stark lighting design by Stefanie Howard. Howard brilliantly sets the stage for the flashbacks as Loeb appears in a flash only to disappear into foggy memories.
“Thrill Me” is a disturbing show about disturbing subject matter, but in the hands of Westrich, Walton, Whitcomb and the Outre team, it’s also a powerful piece of musical theater that sheds light on a heinous crime that should not be forgotten.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wasted column space on The Stunned-Senseless:
Staged with cool efficiency by Outre Theatre Company, “Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story” is a two-man, 90-minute show with so many chilling moments you’ll wish for an intermission so you can catch your breath.
And that’s it.  Oh, he wrote more, but it was all crap.  This is the only part that’s actually a review.  I remember when The Sun-Sentinel provided some of the sharpest insights into local theatre: boy, those days are dead and gone.
The Outré Theatre Company production of Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story plays at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center through June 8, 2014.

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