Review by Joseph Conway
Break None of His Bones is a new play by Joanne de Simone. As a part of John Chatterton’s Midtown International Theatre Festival, the more ambitious two-act vision for this play had to be condensed into a single, 45-minute act. The story itself stems from the old tale of Leopold and Loeb, two murderous socialites from the 20s. The true story of Leopold and Loeb is a dark stain on Chicago’s already grim history. These two infamous villains kidnapped and killed 14-year old Robert Franks and killed him solely out of a desire to commit the “perfect crime.” Break None of His Bones takes a different and more modern approach that is far from “perfect,” but far from downright “criminal” as well.
Break None of His Bones follows the tale of Justin and Austin (Brandon Fox and Emilio Evans, respectively), two ambitious and brilliant young prep school students and members of the popular clique. Being the spoiled children that they are, they grow bored of their assigned psychology project and instead devise a new “project” to see if they can get the decidedly less popular Winston to commit suicide. You know, just for kicks. The boys continually veil their project under science, calling it a “study on agoraphobia,” completely ignoring the fact that you can’t actually simulate the effects of a phobic condition on someone who doesn’t already suffer from the condition. This decision came from students with supposedly genius-level IQs… It’s a rather gaping plot hole that continued to bug me as time went on.
Of course, I wasn’t nearly as bugged as the actor playing Justin (Fox), who rushed through every line like he was on fire and being chased by a swarm of bees… Bees that were also on fire. Terrifying. Perhaps it was the strict 45-minute limit placed on the show, but the entire affair felt rushed, like key components were missing. Toward the end, there comes a point where the entire script seems to jump ahead several pages!
In all, Break None of His Bones is a solid concept. It’s a great idea to integrate modern themes such as social media into the old story of Leopold and Loeb, but the execution is a fair bit off. I left the theater feeling slightly bewildered, wondering how many pages of the script had to be omitted in this final version. It’s a shame, because the bare bones of a great story are there, but it looks like many of them had to be broken to fit it into the restrictive time slot.
Joseph Conway is a classically trained actor and celebrated article writer and critic, quoted often and well for his reviews of operas.