Review: True Crime (Crow’s Theatre)

True Crime delves into the mind of a convicted murderer, on stage in Toronto

In True Crime, the current offering from Crow’s Theatre, Torquil Campbell delves into the dark side of his own psyche via his fascination with convicted murderer, kidnapper and impostor Christian Gerhartsreiter, aka Clark Rockefeller, among other aliases. Shifting between an impersonation of Gerhartsreiter and his first person narrative detailing the creation of the play, Campbell explores what compels them both to do the things they do.

Crow’s Theatre’s new venue, Streetcar Crowsnest, brings a fairly posh venue to the east side. For True Crime, small tables are set around the front of the stage while the bulk of the audience are in more traditional raised seating. The fog of dry ice adds a spookiness to the atmosphere, which the lighting design expertly capitalizes upon.

Campbell is best known as a singer for the band Stars, and music is a cornerstone of this production. Julian Brown plays guitar and piano in the background as Campbell weaves the tale of Gerhartsreiter’s misdeeds and his own obsession with them. Songs full of beautiful melody and frightening intensity punctuate the play, ostensibly inspired by Campbell’s interactions with Gerhartsreiter.

Whether Campbell actually interacted with Gerhartsreiter is unclear. It seems likely that they did exchange letters. The production makes quite a point of questioning whether Campbell ever traveled to San Quentin State Prison to meet the inmate in the flesh. Personally, I did not care about this point and wish there had been less emphasis on it. Theatre is theatre: it has, necessarily, at least one layer of fiction. The cat is both alive and dead; Campbell both met Gerhartsreiter and did not. Autobiographical veracity is not important to me, emotional resonance is. I felt that True Crime, unfortunately undermined its emotional resonance with the insistence on questioning its own realness.

This is the only reservation I have; otherwise, Campbell’s charisma and the engrossing story of a mysterious conman are guided by Chris Abraham’s skillful directorial hand to present a show that is tight and thrilling.

Gerhartsreiter’s exploits are incredibly interesting and Campbell’s own life not less so, despite his lack of criminality. Campbell is aggressively political in the media, both social and mainstream, so this peek into his home life, his relationship with his wife and child, brings a new dimension to his public persona. The intriguing figure of Torquil Campbell embodying the intriguing figure of Gerhartsreiter, together with music and staging, makes one hell of an intriguing show.

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Photo of Torquil Campbell by Dahlia Katz

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