Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, the teenage authors of Modernism's first great crime, are still very much alive in the pop consciousness, with two plays about them running in L.A. Unlike Thrill Me, Stephen Dolginoff's minimalist musical sketch of the precocious thrill-killers, which is playing at a theater across the street, Daniel Henning's exhaustively researched play is rich in biographical detail and period atmosphere. Still, it avoids becoming a prisoner of its own verisimilitude, paying attention to the look of its 1920s milieu without obsessing over the wallpaper. (Roy Rede's simple set consists mainly of antique polished-wood chairs and a long table, with the ensemble of six supporting actors sitting upstage as in a jury box.) What separates Dickie & Babe from similar works is the time it devotes to the formative years of the boys' friendship, as the shy Babe (Aaron Himelstein) becomes a summer guest at the extroverted Dickie's (Nick Niven) family estate. There, the pair's homosexual affections are discovered by an athletics tutor (J. Richey Nash), and rumors follow the two from frat-house gossip all the way to the Chicago courthouse, where the young men stand charged with murdering a child. Henning assembles the facts in an appealing arrangement but needs to curtail his scholarship to nudge the story along faster. There are moments, particularly during the "college years," that cry out for deletion, or at least compression, through the kind of scene jump cuts used in the Leopold-and-Loeb film Swoon. Himelstein and Niven carve out two very different personalities and effectively carry out Henning's attempt to present the pair as villains but also as victims of their own fantasy life. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Feb. 8. Continues through April 13, 2008
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