Reviewed by Lory Martinez
The closing night performance of Moises Kaufman’s The Laramie Project by Binghamton University’s Hinman Production Company (HPC) had the largest crowd the troupe had ever seen, and with good reason.
The play tell the story of Matthew Shepard, a college student who was brutally beaten to death in a 1998 hate crime that held the attention of America for more than a year until the case was finally settled. It follows a theatrical company that visits Laramie, Wyo., to gather information on the case in order to write a play about it. The production was part of the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s efforts to spread a message of understanding and acceptance for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and questioning (LGBTQ) community.
The tragic narrative was played documentary-style, with interviews and commentary by cast and crew. But as the play evolved, it became more of a poetic public service announcement of acceptance.
Director Ruben Martinez led the staging of this controversial drama about a small town and its residents in the aftermath of one of the most televised news stories in recent history. But really, the credit goes to a great cast and great timing.
One got a sense of reality watching this cast play members of the Laramie community. There was no fiction, of course, as the script was taken directly from actual Laramie interviews. But it’s all in the acting, and well, I remember watching the sold-out performance last Saturday (April 6) and thinking, “These poor people.”
HPC members had lobbied to present a comedy this spring. However, after an overwhelmingly positive outcome in the election this past November for LGBTQ activists, the selection of this drama was timely and its message echoed a growing trend of acceptance for homosexuality in the United States.
It’s hard to describe how one feels about a heavy drama such as Laramie, but the standing ovation at the end of this production said it all.