| The Laramie Project |
Through Mar 3
$8 general, $6 senior,
Jane and Arthur Stieren Theater
1 Trinity Place
world, the play has lost a certain degree of potency, urgency. It is now by all means a safe production — but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile or significant, particularly if you’ve never experienced it before.
Upon learning of the murder of gay 21-year-old college student Matthew Shepard (an act largely billed as a hate crime) in Laramie, Wyoming, the Tectonic Theater Project, headed by Moises Kaufman, ventured out to the city on several occasions to gather interviews with locals and pen journal entries to create something Ben Brantley referred to as “theatrical journalism” in his May 2000 review of The Laramie Project for The New York Times.
Now, you can imagine what a pain it is to organize the series of moments — short conversations and monologues, not traditional scenes — that comprise the play. Trinity’s production is delightfully apt, employing blackouts, soft spotlighting, and a spectrum of colored lighting to direct shifts in attention, allowing minimal set pieces to be moved, and minor additions to the muted costumes, primarily shades of indigo and purple, to be made without notice.
The cast of 10 was responsible for embodying 60 sometimes gender-bending roles. There’s something strange about watching Trinity’s actors portraying Tectonic Theater actors who were once playing themselves in Laramie. This style of “theatrical journalism” is a little tired now; the Tectonic Theater characters feel slightly righteous and the teensiest bit hypocritical (considering how vulgar and predatory the television and newspaper journalists `ahem` are depicted in the piece).
The most effective actor (and I’d say this even if I hadn’t directed him on one occasion) in the ensemble is E.J. Roberts, as, among other persons, the Reverend Phelps, and oddly, one of the perpetrators as well as Matthew Shepard’s father. The latter performance was tear-jerking, and not at all recited in the clichéd way a handful of other moments were.
Valerie Cortinas is compelling as a sheriff exposed to HIV while trying to keep Matthew alive. Her compassion and simplicity felt very true.
In fact, the entire cast gave very solid performances — bravo.
Susanna Morrow, Laramie’s director and new addition to Trinity University’s faculty, utilized the work of L.A.-based videographer Ana Baer-Carrillo, projecting it onto the naked back wall of the stage. You could almost take Baer-Carrillo’s footage of mountains, sky, a gravelly path, a shadowed and distorted body, and the fence to which Shepard was tied, and have an affecting art installation. But what The Laramie Project does is transcend the crime itself to show us the effect the murder had on the entire community.
The three-act play is broken up by a single intermission (during which the theater was filled with the sound of rain, as though we needed a cue to take a restroom break) that made the piece feel lopsided. Imbalance notwithstanding, Trinity’s The Laramie Project is very well-executed, well-acted, and certainly spiritually uplifting.
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