The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theatre Project. Directed by Sophie Benassi. Narrabundah College Theatre Dept. The Hawk Theatre, Narrabundah College. August 1-5 at 7pm. Matinee 2pm August 5.
The Laramie Project is a strong and moving piece of verbatim theatre that was devised to tell the story of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student from Laramie, Wyoming.
It takes its power from its use of interviews and reflections collected by Tectonic Theatre members and director Moises Kaufman. A picture builds up of the young man who was killed and of the perpetrators of the crime, but also the people of the town. Feelings run high.
A large group of Narrabundah College students directed by Sophie Benassi step up magnificently to the challenges of multiple roles and more than the occasional cross gender casting. In fact the season has been designed to accommodate two casts, who will each do three performances. (On opening night that was the Blue cast.)
A bare stage with the use of captions and slides on an upstage screen along with the occasional bringing in of chairs and blocks keeps the show mostly tight. Occasionally amid the moody lighting actors do not quite find the brightest spot for their faces but that may come as the run progresses.
The material is strong and the challenges of verbatim theatre are met with thoughtful performance. The format encourages quickly sketched characters which are mostly well sustained.
The only character who does not appear is the young victim. But he is present, through his picture on the screen, through the upstage shrine that appears in the last part of the play, and through people’s memories of him. The sense of waste is palpable.
This is college theatre where it should be; encouraging and supporting young performers to make work of substance.