Tectonic Theatre Project Presents ‘The Laramie Project Cycle’ At BAM: REVIEW

The Lararmie Project Ten Years Later_Greg Pierotti_PC_Julieta CervantesThe expert ensemble of eight
performs dozens of different characters with ease and precision, often using
one indicative article of costume—like a jacket or pair of glasses—to switch
between finely drawn characterizations. Original company members also play
themselves, relaying observations they made in Laramie fifteen years ago.

Simple, compelling visual design
and fluid direction for both productions are characteristic of Tectonic’s style
and practice of staying focused on voices and ideas without unnecessary

The more viscerally emotional of
the two, Part One of The Laramie Project
Cycle is also the more successfully
constructed drama. The play not only has a clear story to tell—that of the
murder and its immediate aftermath—but its voices speak with the urgency and
emotional intensity that follows hot on the heels of national tragedy.

Mostly addressing the audience
directly, company members and characters tell their personal stories—from
Matthew’s friends and University teachers, to the teenage boy who found him
tied up to a fence, the policewoman first on the scene, and the spokesman and
CEO of the Colorado hospital where Shepard died after spending several
nationally publicized days on life-support.

The Laramie Project Ten Years Later_Tectonic Theater Project_PC_Julieta CervantesThe immediate outpouring of
sentiment and national attention had necessarily died down when the company
returned to Laramie ten years later, which was precisely their reason for
creating a follow-up project. While the second play indeed feels like a vitally
important companion piece, it’s not quite as solidly constructed a work of

Developments they discover—like the
slow road to political change, and a lingering theory promoted by an episode of
20/20 that Shepard’s murder was a
robbery gone awry and not in fact a hate crime—are undoubtedly key pieces of
the story to understand. However, without the clear framework of a story, the
insights feel more piecemeal.

Part Two of the cycle also includes
chilling prison interviews with both of Shepard’s murderers, Aaron McKinney and
Russell Henderson, as well as inspirational words from Judy Shepard, whose
political activism paved the way for the Hate Crimes Preventions Act bearing
her son’s name, which Obama signed into law in 2009.

Our national imagination has a natural
tendency to forget the distinct, immediate heat of galvanizing tragedies so
vividly captured in The Laramie Project.
This one is worth a reminder.

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Martin Moran's 'All The Rage' Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
Ben Rimalower Is Working Through His 'Patti Issues' At The Duplex: INTERVIEW
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'The Other Place' Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: julieta cervantes)


  1. says

    Looking forward to seeing it. It’s a profoundly emotional and important work of American theatre.

    And utterly galling that the Matthew Shepard Act was rebuffed by Bush for years, and the government in Wyoming has seemed more embarrassed by the publicity around the murder than the murder itself.

    btw, check out Cyndi Lauper’s song “Above the Clouds” which was written by Lauper; inspired by Shepard’s story, and her experiences working with his mother.

  2. Matt says

    saw the opening night of both parts. Part One was exceptional, Part Two was a bit all over the place, almost seemed more like a historical lecture of events than a play, but it was still good. Unfortunately, it seems as though no one knew about it…the first half still had a lot of seats, the second half…well, about half the house was sold. I don’t know if the look on the actors faces during curtain call was that of “sucks not that many people came” or “sucks I flubbed a line” (since a few of them flubbed here and there, which was a shock considering how expertly Part One was performed).

  3. James says

    Correction: it is currently just months after the fourteenth anniversary of the tragedy in Laramie in 1998. This year (2013) will mark the fifteenth anniversary come October.

  4. MickleSt says

    GO SEE BOTH PARTS, ASAP! We may never get the chance to see this company do this again. They are a treasure. Their work here is deceptively simple and simply breathtaking. I had reservations at first that it might feel dated. NOT. AT. All. Still has enormous power. Cathartic and beautiful. A MUST SEE!

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