The Crime of the Century | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Crime of the Century 

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The CRIME OF THE CENTURY, Circle Theatre. Local playwright Rebecca Gilman made her name in 1996 with The Glory of Living, a somber, pulpy play about a serial killer on a spree also produced at Circle Theatre. Now she's back in the world of twisted killers, guileless victims, and by-the-books cops with The Crime of the Century, based on Dennis L. Breo and William J. Martin's book about the Richard Speck murders. But this case is very well-known--who hasn't heard of Speck's gruesome, pointless slaughter of eight student nurses?--and Gilman has nothing new to say about it.

Nor does she have a clue how to present this familiar material: many of the scenes feel as if they've been lifted from the old Dragnet TV series. That may be why she pads an already long docudrama with bathetic monologues by all eight victims--so we'll know it's a tragedy when eight young, idealistic women are killed.

Director Greg Kolack, who takes credit for "conceiving" this show, seems as much at a loss as Gilman. He's gathered a cast of crack actors--led by the phenomenal Seema Sueko as Corazon Amurao, the sole survivor of the attack and chief witness against Speck--but allows the pace to flag. Maybe even a great staging couldn't have made this severely flawed play live: the only truly dramatic scene is Amurao's riveting testimony during Speck's trial, which would have made a marvelous one-woman one-act. --Jack Helbig


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