THE LARAMIE PROJECTBy Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project
Direction by Todd Hart
Technical Direction by Max Marquez
Scenic Design by Bob Lavallee
Lighting Design by Max Marquez
Sound Design by Andrea Allmond
Costume Design by Ric Dreumont Leal
Properties Design by Meredith Hinton
Scenic Artistry by Theresa Furphy
Video/Projection by Jordana Abrencia
CAST (In alphabetical order.):
Reviewed Performance: 5/20/2012
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Laramie Project was created by the Tectonic Theater Project in reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The murder was denounced as a hate crime and brought attention to the lack of hate crime laws in various states, including Wyoming.
The play draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theatre company with inhabitants of the town, company member's own journal entries and published news reports. It is divided into three acts and eight actors portray more than sixty characters in a series of short scenes.
The Laramie Project premiered at The Ricketson Theatre by the Denver Center Theatre Company, part of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, in February 2000 and was then performed in the Union Square Theatre in New York City before a November 2002 performance in Laramie, Wyoming. The play has also been performed by high schools, colleges, and community theatres across the country as well as professional playhouses in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
Many of the performances in the United States have been picketed by representatives of people portrayed in the play picketing Matthew Shepard's funeral as they did in real life. Though the play has been produced worldwide, it still generates controversy and discussion - as, in my opinion, it should.
Theatre Arlington's theatre space is a beautifully laid out. Upon entering, you are immediately immersed in a multimedia spectacle. The proscenium is lined with televisions showing multiple images of statistics, hate references and archival photo references of Matthew Shepard's tragedy. The fixed set is still and lit wonderfully, with the entire back wall scenically painted by Theresa Furphy as a Wyoming landscape. The pre-show music playing induces many different feelings that work well with the imagery on the multiple televisions. It's a fantastic presentation and prelude to what becomes an excellent artistic presentation of The Laramie Project.
Direction by Todd Hart is splendid. It's a daunting task for actors, and directors, to have eight people play sixty characters yet Mr. Hart stages every scene effectively, uses wonderfully flowing movement in manipulating the different monologues. Every scene delivers exactly what it should based on the text of the play. Some of the scenes in this production are difficult to watch and Mr. Hart gives them to you perfectly raw yet balanced. You are never once removed from the story and you are locked in to every word by his very talented cast.
Max Marquez's technical direction is professional and executed very well. There are difficult technical aspects in this production and if done incorrectly would collapse the presentation. However, under the direction of Mr. Marquez, there is not one failure. Multiple television displays, subtitles, archival video footage and live broadcasting of the actual cast on stage during news conferences all flow seamlessly to add a wonderful depth to the production. Mr. Marquez is also credited as lighting designer and scores another win with his design. Harsh white down lighting, soft ambers, blues and beautiful accents that illuminate the set are stunning and exactly what the production needs. There is also a brilliant and unexpected moment at the end of the play that incorporates the set, special effects and lighting that you will have to see for yourself! Job very well done Mr. Marquez!
Scenic design by Bob Lavallee is simplistically gorgeous. Mr. Lavallee has flanked both sides of the stage with soaring natural wood plank walls and places a round, raised plank stage in the middle. The natural wood along with the scenic painting draw a wonderfully thematic reference to the wooden fence Matthew Shepard lost his life on. Shelving and pegs, again all natural wood, hold all the properties and costume pieces the cast uses when changing characters. It is visually stimulating and adds another perfect piece to this wonderful production's puzzle.
Ric Dreumont Leal's costuming is spot-on. Basic pieces with powerful references change all of the actors into different people seamlessly. From simple scarves and aprons to jackets and bandannas, Mr. Leal never under or over states the character's needs. His designs are a perfect accent to this production.
Jordana Abrencia's video/projections are very integral to this artistic interpretation of the play and if any of them are off it would be very distracting and in some cases confusing. Throughout the entire performance and intermissions this powerful part of the production is spectacular!
This cast truly deserves the standing ovation they received! It takes a powerfully committed and talented cast of performers to do this play. Not one person is off, over-the-top, or loses focus. I was completely drawn in with every character each portrayed and never once lost interest. I cannot commend all these talented men and women enough for an extraordinary job. Many of the scenes in this play are difficult to handle, not only in content but with the enormous amount of line memorization.
In addition to the performance, I had the pleasure of staying through a talkback with the director, cast and special guests Susan Cunningham Burk with the Matthew Shepard Foundation and Reverend Carol West from Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth. It was an amazing forty minutes of discussion with them and the cast - their professionalism continued on after the show. Learning about the process of the play's creation, the actor and community perspective truly added to the performance.
Because of the insightful content of the talkback and the wonderful pleasure I had in interviewing Ms. Burk about the Matthew Shepard Foundation afterwards, I will be submitting a follow-up about those two after-performance events. I feel the production and the talk-back/interview each deserve their own focus.
I personally believe this is the best decision Theatre Arlington has made artistically in many years to produce The Laramie Project. I strongly urge everyone to see this production. Let me also clarify that this is not a "gay-play". It is a play, simply enough, about hate. Sadly, we need this art form to remind us that as a human race we still have to learn from our past to attempt to make a better future. You do NOT want to miss the opportunity to experience this work of art right in our own backyard. Who knows, you may even walk away with a different perspective on things' I know I did.
305 W. Main St. Arlington, TX 76010
Production runs through June 3rd
Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm
Tickets are: Adults $19, Seniors/Students $17, Press Pass (Limit 2) $15 and groups (10 or more) $15
To purchase tix, contact the box office: (817) 275-7661 M-F 1-5:30 pm, Saturday during productions 10am-1pm or go online to www.theatrearlington.org