Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) The Laramie Project

The art of collective story telling. 
by Keely Kwok

The Laramie Project is not for the faint of heart. The play tells the story of the aftermath in Laramie, Wyoming after the brutal beating and tragic death of twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard. He was Gay. 

A theatre company known as the Tectonic Theatre Project, based in New York City and helmed by award-winning playwright Moisés Kaufman, traveled to Laramie a month after Matthew’s death in 1998 to interview the residents. From their mouths to our ears, those interviews resulted in The Laramie Project.  

The entire creative team both on and off stage handles this difficult subject matter with the respect and care it deserves. There are moments of somber sincerity, outrage, confession, even brief interludes of humour - all with the purpose of communicating a story, of representing an ugly moment in Laramie history, but not letting it define them. With a cast of eleven, each actor plays several different roles ranging from Tectonic interviewers to the multitude of towns people. Everyone’s voice is heard and you leave feeling no one was misrepresented. It's fascinating to watch the actors’ subtle changes in physicality as they shift between characters. A touch of the collar, a slip of hands into pockets, the donning of a hat. Some standout performances are Curtis Kupkee as Matthew Shepard’s father, Sean Mason as the narrator, and Nicholas Surges as both Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. Henderson and McKinney were the boys who brutally beat Matthew and left him for dead tied to a fence post on the outskirts of town. Again, not for the faint of heart. Surges in particular is riveting to watch as the remorseful Henderson juxtaposed later against his portrayal of the unrepentant McKinney. 

Although there were a few line blunders, the cast does well to keep the show moving with a well-rehearsed fluidity. The Laramie Project is an ambitious play for a student production. But, Algonquin’s theatre students, under the leadership of director Teri Loretto-Valentik, performed the show with purpose and above all succeeded in telling the story. 

To buy tickets visit the Algonquin College Studio, N112, on Woodroffe Campus on the night of the show. Adult tickets are $10, while students, seniors and alumni pay $7. For reservations, call 613-727-4723 Ext. 5784. To April 21.

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