By Eron Laber Special to OnMilwaukee Published Nov 07, 2003 at 5:42 AM

{image1}Never one to bow meekly to the conventions of theater, Bialystock and Bloom's production of the John Logan courtroom drama "Never the Sinner" tells the true story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two affluent teenage geniuses, rumored to be lovers, who hunted down and killed a younger peer as a "philosophical experiment" in Chicago 1924.

By casting the audience as the judge in the case, "Sinner" encourages audience members to weigh the arguments and decide for themselves what should happen to Leopold and Loeb, should they be given life in prison or hung. With nooses hanging dimly lit in the distance, the prospect is never far from one's mind.

While the script takes you inside the murder scene, the courtroom and prison, the actors performances take you inside the minds of Leopold and Loeb. Jason Econimus, making his Bialystock and Bloom premiere Richard Loeb, swings through emotional highs and lows at a fever pitch. He so embodied his character that his face was like an emotional tachometer, registering a shade of red to match his anger, and then quickly reverting to normal.

Nathaniel Press joins Econimus in his Bialystoick and Bloom debut, playing Nathan Leopold, Jr. Press' Leopold was the perfect compliment to Econimus' Loeb. As Loepold, an effeminate, childlike intellectual, who shows the same fascination in murder as ornithology, Press hits the right notes of loneliness and desperation to lend sympathy to his characters actions.

{image2}Bolstering Econimus' and Press' performances was the strength of the ensemble cast around them. Everyone from Mark Metcalf's stodgy defense lawyer Clarence Darrow to Jonathan Wainwright's straight-as-an-arrow prosecuting attorney Robert Crowe solidified this performance from top to bottom. Tom Klubertanz, also, deserves a mention for his performance as a quick-change artist bouncing from the southern bailiff to the dopey Sergeant Gortland to the stuffy Dr. White while also occasionally morphing into one of the narrative reporters.

In addition to the strength of the script and the individual performances, Bialystock and Bloom also maximized their space with a multifunctional set that was transformed throughout the play by liberal use of lighting. With two small stools being the only movable objects, they were able to transform the same space from a courtroom to the murder scene to a jail cell and courtyard.

"Never the Sinner" runs until November 16th, with special talkbacks with legal experts after certain performances. For more information and schedule times, call Bialystock and Bloom at (414) 291-7800, stop by the box office at 158 N. Broadway or check out their website

Eron Laber Special to OnMilwaukee

Eron Laber is the owner of Through Line Studios. He specializes in artistic, personal wedding and portrait photography that reflects the character of his subjects.