Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Laramie Project"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"The Laramie Project"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Little Theater of Fall River's summer production is "The Laramie Project" a play by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project about the reaction to the October, 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The murder is widely considered to be a hate crime motivated by homophobia. The Tectonic Theater Project sent ten members to Laramie to collect 200 interviews with the inhabitants of the town, company members' own journal entries and published news reports. It is divided into two acts with 1 narrator and 8 performers portraying 67 character in a series of short scenes. Director Jen Bellanti uses these performers in multiple roles to present a very moving and dramatic show with some comic ones, about the diversity of people not only in this town but across the country, too. She tells this story about the reality of human life in contemporary America.

The most important part of the set is the buck fence which is brought out in the final scene and is where Matthew died. It also symbolizes the division of this town where it divides hate from love. The world needs to be seen in its fullness and beauty not in its ugliness and dreariness. and this cast makes a bold statement for the audience to wake up and try to make this a better world, learning from the lessons of the past. Hopefully this play will open eyes of a society whose eyes have been closed for far too long. Stage manager John Nunes keeps things running smoothly all night long

The 9 member cast bring these roles to life wonderfully whether they are spouting hateful diatribe about being gay, or compassionate understanding. Joseph Luca commands the stage as the narrator of the show, introducing the multitude of characters. I wished he had more to do in the show since he is an excellent actor, too. Since there are too many roles to list in this review, I will instead look at some of the parts the actors played in this performance. They do a topnotch job with their enormous amount of dialogue. Roger Duarte is hilarious as the limo driver, Doc who drove Matthew to the bar where he met his attackers and he has some colorful language. He also plays the "faggot" hating Jack Phelps who demonstrates at Matt's funeral. Chris Mac as Dennis Shepard, delivers the goods when he gives one of the killers a life sentence instead of the death penalty. This gives the show its most dramatic punch with his perfect line delivery. His son is his hero when he died on October 12 and that Aaron has Matt to thank for his life, hoping he will regret his crime. Pamela Morgan is fantastic as Reggie,the cop who might have contracted HIV from Matt after she finds him beaten and bloody on the fence and she is also the theatre teacher at Wyoming U. April Ruggerio is marvelous and she plays her mother, Marge delivering a few laughs and some heartfelt moments with her daughter.Jeff Belanger plays the ER doctor who treated Matt. Caitlin Robert plays Romaine, a lesbian who is one of Matt's best friends, is Tiffany, a glamorous local TV reporter and the boy who found Matthew on the fence. Chris Mac also handles the role of a 52 year old gay man who is in tears seeing the parade for Matt grow 5 times as it turns down the street and he plays Moises Kaugman. Joel Ward plays both of the murderers, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. Kelly Morrell Camara does a topnotch job as a Muslim woman who is aghast at what happened in Wyoming.So for a show that packs a powerful punch, be sure to catch "The Laramie Project".

"The Laramie Project" (9 - 19 June)
LITTLE THEATRE OF FALL RIVER
@ The Firebarn, 340 Prospect Street, FALL RIVER MA
1(508)675-1852

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