Review: The Laramie Project (Encore Entertainment)

The heartbreaking story of Matthew Shepard is told in The Laramie Project at Toronto Centre for the Arts

Matthew Shepard was found tied to a fence post in rural Wyoming, face caked with dried blood.

Under his eyes, some of the blood had washed away – it appeared as though Mr. Shepard had been crying, a witness noted.

The Laramie Project – playing until February 5th at the Toronto Centre for the Arts – attempts to put the kidnapping and beating that left Mr. Shepard for dead into some context.

The “project” that the title refers to, is the personal reporting, including an exhaustive number of interviews with the residents of Laramie, Wyoming, by nine members of the Tectonic Theatre Project. Led by Moises Kaufman, they went to Wyoming, shortly after the death of Mr. Shepard.

Around that time, the attack on Mr. Shepard was getting national attention.

 And in the Encore production, the show opens with a video clip projected on a screen behind the actors of network coverage of the story. It ends with a heart-rending statement from Matthew’s parents, read by a doctor attending to their son.

Though I had seen The Laramie Project once before, I don’t remember being so close to tears so often.

There is, for example, a scene in the first half of the show in which the discovery of Mr. Shepard on the fencepost is described, that had me holding my forehead.

It was genuinely overpowering, at times.

And then, in the second half of The Laramie Project, which runs nearly two-and-a-half hours with an intermission, the medical updates that punctuate the action had me gritting my teeth with sympathy.

“They’re pretty good for amateurs, aren’t they?” said the woman beside me, her arms crossed, when I asked her opinion of the performance.

Amateurs?

“Yeah – look at in the credits, it says what their day job is,” she replied, then abruptly turned to chat with a clutch of women beside her.

Amateur is definitely not how I’d describe the acting. But, she was right: the performers do have other jobs. Aaron Sidenberg, for example, is a police officer and travel salesman. Mario D’Alimonte, the director, is a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Other members of the cast, all of whom play multiple parts in The Laramie Project, include: Alison DeGrazia; Derick Evans; Lucy Everleigh; Avra Fainer; Graham Fleming; Monique Renaud; and Luke Slade.

Merle Garbe is credited as the producer and, Linda Ramsay as stage manager.

It’s a show that really hit me hard. And on that basis, I’d recommend it.

Details

The Laramie Project is playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge Street)
– Remaining performances are Saturday, February 4th at 7:30 and Sunday, February 5th at 1:30
– Tickets cost between $28.00 and $29.50
– Tickets are available at the box office, or by calling 1-855-985-2787