"The Laramie Project" directed by Lynne Perkins in IU’s Wells-Metz Theatre is a wonderful gift to our community. It’s a very thought provoking, emotionally involving piece of very entertaining theatre.
Laramie, Wyoming, is a college town like Green Castle or Franklin , Terre Haute, Vincennes and Bloomington. For almost all of us, the only thing that we know about Laramie is that two locals brutally murdered the openly gay college student Mathew Shepherd.
The "Laramie Project" literally takes us into the lives of the people Laramie. The play comes from more than two hundred separate interviews that avant garde director and playwright Moises Kaufman and members of his theatre company did over a year and a half. The ten members of the IU cast move seamlessly through portrayals of dozens of the people involved. As the story is told, we hear from the detective in charge, local ministers, the bar tender who served Mathew and his murderers, neighbors, friends and even the two murderers themselves.
Frankly, I was not looking forward to seeing "The Laramie Project" Saturday night. I’d read about the gruesome story. The thought of reliving my initial shock and disgust was little incentive and I was regretting missing the IU Ballet in the Musical Arts Center just up the street from the theatre. I still regret the ballet, but I’m awfully glad that I saw "The Laramie Project."
Live theatre can move me in a way that no other art form does. During the production I came to really feel, as well as think, about how much the people of Laramie are like people that I know, even people like me. The ways in which they grappled with the crime, the arguments that came out about just who was to blame were all familiar. Was it just two local crazies? Was it the university for its tolerance? Was it Mathew’s own fault? The understanding that came out of these and further insights in its emotional heft was new. Many of the characters in the play came to see that some of them actively, and most passively had a part of this awful crime. A few like the local catholic priest were able to articulate an intellectual and social position, for many the effects were marked, but less self-conscious.
The IU Theatre’s production of "The Laramie Project" directed by Lynn Perkins in the Wells-Metz Theatre is really quite an amazingly intricate and powerful telling of a complex tale. It plays in the evening through Saturday. On Saturday there is an additional matinee at two.
At least one church group will be coming to picket outside one of the performances. I wish that every church group in the area would come to sit inside and experience this truly involving, transcendent, thought provoking and yes, entertaining piece.