Written by Patrick Hamilton in 1929, “Rope” was inspired by the real-life murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. The sociopaths believed in a Nietzschean idea that because of their superiority, the law did not apply to them as it did to regular people, therefore it was acceptable to murder someone if even for the sole purpose of committing the “perfect crime.”
Unlike the original, in Queen City Theatre Company’s adaptation of “Rope,” director Glenn T. Griffin flaunts the homosexuality of main characters Brandon and Charles, as well as Rupert’s to a lesser degree. This is especially true for the couple’s private scenes, but in keeping with the time’s social context, such matters are kept slightly hidden to others even when they are plainly obvious to modern audiences.
When the play debuted in 1929 London, homosexuality was illegal, punishable by prison and often required very little evidence to convict the accused. Though acceptance was growing, admission tickets were still needed to get into gay clubs such as the Coliseum, which characters in “Rope” clearly know about but of which they will not speak openly as existing for gay men.
After murdering fellow Oxford student Ronald Kentley, Wyndham Brandon (Berry Newkirk) and Charles Granillo (Justin Younts) host a party where dinner is served off a chest in which lies the body of the murder victim. The guests include the dead man’s father and fiancée, both of whom are invited by Brandon for very specific reasons.
The Coliseum was the perfect place to select their victim because none of the other patrons would admit to having seen Ronald there for fear of accusations of homosexuality. This perhaps ironically leaves open the potential for the perpetrators of the real crime of murder to go free because the of society’s intolerance of homosexuality.
Also attending the party is Rupert Cadell (Austin Vaccaro), the only character that Brandon considers to be an intellectual equal and someone who could possibly appreciate what he’s done to prove his superiority. Whereas Charles is nervous and feels only fear of being caught — but no remorse — Brandon’s arrogance pushes him to drop hint after hint of the pair’s psychotic deed, at times seeming to want to be caught, particularly by Rupert.
Nearly a century after it was written, “Rope” still imparts a very relevant moral tale. Ultimately, “Rope” is about the idea of superiority itself, cleverly sending a strong and beautiful message of equality for all people, and divisions between none.
info: “Rope” is currently on stage. Learn more about the show, get show times and buy tickets at queencitytheatre.com.