By Natasha Lewin
One of the hardest challenges about reviewing theater is removing personal attachment and emotion toward what is subjective opinion for anyone else. Writing without the use of “I thought” or “I felt” in regards to The Laramie Project is an extremely difficult task to undergo, especially with the space constraints limited. So, in honor of objectivity and brevity, if there is any one theater-going experience to be had this year, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later is the one to choose.
Matthew Shepard was only 21 years old when he was brutally beaten and tortured, tied to a fence post, and left for dead near Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. Matthew was a spirited, beloved son and friend targeted for being gay. His death rattled the world and turned Laramie on its ear. Tearing the town in half with speculation, embarrassment, and bewilderment, ten years to the date of this horrendous hate crime, five writers returned to Laramie to interview those whose Matthew’s death affected most: Everyone. From townspeople, friends, parents, politicians, educators, policemen, reporters, even the killers themselves, The Laramie Project is an incredibly moving re-enactment of those interviews.
Directed by Ken Sawyer, a stellar cast rounds out this poignant play. Based on exchanges with over 30 different people, each actor performs as multiple subjects from these conversations. Most notably Carl J. Johnson’s effortless transition from staunch Wyoming Republican Governor Dave Freudenthal to inquisitive writer Stephen Belber. Playing eight different characters, Christine Sloane is a delight to watch. Her different down-home dialects are performed with expert fluidity making each persona their own. With such a multi-talented troupe of performers, The Laramie Project is not one to miss.
The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later is running Sept. 13 to Nov. 16 at The Gay & Lesbian Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza located at 1125 N. McCadden Pl. in Hollywood. For tickets go to lagaycenter.org/theater or call (323) 860-7300.