Sinclair Community College wraps a very commendable season with an excellent production of “The Laramie Project,” a gripping account of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, the victim of an appalling hate crime on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming in the autumn of 1998.
Compiled from over 200 interviews conducted by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, “Laramie Project,” which debuted in 2000, mesmerizes with quiet intensity as wide-ranging perspectives of Shepard and Laramie citizens mesh to form an impressively authentic, brilliantly balanced, brutally honest three-act canvas of heartbreak, horror, humor and hope. Director Scott Stoney refreshingly energizes the storytelling with brisk immediacy (this is the most fast-moving version I have seen), but superbly pauses the pace to beautifully heighten the deeply touching poignancy in the finale of each act. A bicycle slowly crossing in front of the fence where Shepard was bound for 18 hours and hearing the cast mimic the patter of rain upon the announcement of Shepard’s death are some of the unique instances that stir emotions anew before intermission. Stoney, who astutely concludes the play with an inspired local nod, also ensures his wonderfully unified nine-member cast creates sharply distinctive personas while inhabiting multiple roles of varying ages and traits. Some actors are more adept chameleons, but the challenge is admirably met by all.
Angela Dermer, John Dunn, Chris Hammond, Cdynie Hampton, John Ray, Matthew Smith, Matt Turner, Robb Willoughby and Rachel Wilson comfortably handle the fluidity of the material, winningly accented by Patti Celek and Gion Defrancesco’s projections. The ensemble is also memorably spotlighted individually, particularly Ray’s fiery Fred Phelps, Willoughby’s tear-jerking Dennis Shepard, Wilson’s terrific turn as police officer Reggie Fluty, Hammond’s earthy embodiment of Reggie’s mother and Dunn’s excitable portrayal of a college student drawn to “Angels in America.”
The contributions of scenic/property designer Terry Stump, costumer Kathleen Hotmer, lighting designer Gina Neuerer and sound designer Stephen Skiles are equally appealing within this riveting play overflowing with relevant, thought-provoking potency.
“The Laramie Project” continues through May 26 in Blair Hall Theatre, Building 2, of Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday at 10 a.m. and Thursday at 7 p.m. Act One: 50 minutes, Act Two: 40 minutes; Act Three: 30 minutes. Tickets are $10-$15 (the Thursday performance is an additional $5 and includes pre-show appetizers and a cash bar). For tickets or more information, call (937) 512-2808 or visit www.sinclair.edu/tickets