Rope

As a piece of theatre, and as a true story, Rope does not lend itself to cheerful thinking. The play is based somewhat on the real case of Loeb and Leopold, two thrill-seeking wealthy students with a superiority complex gleaned from the pages of academia, who needlessly murder an innocent with the belief that they will remain undiscovered

Production: Rope
Venue: Drama Barn
Rating: ****
Runs: Friday 26 to Sunday 28 February

As a piece of theatre, and as a true story, Rope does not lend itself to cheerful thinking. The play is based on the somewhat real case of Loeb and Leopold, two thrill-seeking wealthy students with a superiority complex gleaned from the pages of academia, who needlessly murder an innocent with the belief that they will remain undiscovered. We meet their fictional counterparts, Brandon and Granillo, as they begin their own descent into something that they cannot take back. Stuffing the corpse of their victim into a chest, they have their butler prepare a dinner party for a host of distinguished guests, which is to be served on the chest in which the body is stored. As the night progresses, the tense and bizarre nature of the two intellectuals’ hosting leads to rising suspicions among the guests invited to unwittingly satisfy their egos.

While clearly intended to be a performance that relies on the entire dinner party cast to pull off, Justin Stathers seemed particularly strong in his role as Wyndham Brandon, the dominating partner in the criminal duo. Without it, Rope may have been somewhat unbelievable; he pulled off the part of an upper class figure of fear well. His control over accomplice Charles Granillo seemed convincing enough, and towards the end Stathers demonstrated plenty of depth to Brandon. The other cast members did nicely overall, and while some missed lines were obvious, they did recover well enough to ensure it never became an enormous problem. When getting it right they covered each role adequately, which helped to develop a level of familiarity over the course of the play.

The setting feels somewhat claustrophobic, but it works well for theatre aimed at making the audience uneasy and tense. Rope obviously has more constraints in budget and sheer man time than other performances such as Rent, but this doesn’t seem to hold back the show in any meaningful way. Look at the set, it seems the part; an upper class abode for young intellectuals in an era of decadence. Good control over the lighting ensured that the mood clearly intended could be managed.

Delivering a good performance of what is now a relatively classic story, Rope should satisfy most audiences. The problems that it had were mostly a lack of polish, which will presumably come throughout the run as the actors get used to the play in its entirety on the stage. While not likely to surprise an audience with the plot, particularly once they find their footing in the plot and characters, it is an interesting exploration of ugly minded people displaying the reality that they have been infected with a sense of superiority that they do not have the responsibility and maturity to keep in check.

4 comments

  1. I’m not sure which play you were watching, but I thought Stathers was by far the weakest part of the play. His unnecessarily camp performance ruined most of his lines, and made the character seem completely unbelievable. Ed Lewis Smith held the play together, and if it wasn’t for the excellent comic relief from the characters of Kenneth and Lalia the play would have fallen flat on its face.

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  2. 27 Feb ’10 at 2:39 am

    An individual directly involved

    It should be noted, incidentally, that this reviewer watched the dress rehearsal of the play.

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  3. I don’t know if you’ve ever reviewed a play before, but you should at least know that it is ‘set’ not ‘setting’ – they’re quite different. ‘Stathers demonstrated plenty of depth to Brandon’ – this doesn’t make sense. Please can we get a decent editor just to sort small things like this out? Otherwise, decent article, though would have liked to hear more about the cast rather than the plot.

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  4. 27 Feb ’10 at 12:48 pm

    Daniel Linderman

    Personally, I didn’t even know what rope was. Once I did know what it was, I didn’t know when it was on.

    Looking at past articles that Ben has written, it doesn’t look like he’s written many, if any, reviews of this nature before. I’m sure Ben would have prefered to go to the pub or anything else but go and review rope. Instead though, he did go and see it and gave it a good review.

    Despite the quality of this review, Ben has given it a good shot as well as give rope free publicity in the process. As a result, I’d like to thank Ben, and I shall being doing my best to go and see rope tonight.

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