Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Raisin
This was not my first encounter with this play, having seen it at least twice on stage as well as the HBO film. I was also in the audience at The Mertz Theater as Asolo Theatre was one of 150 theaters in the U.S. who participated in readings of Return to Laramie: Ten Years Later, Tectonic Theatre Project's account of what happened when they returned to Laramie in 2008.
The ensemble cast of 13 portrays over 60 characters, in groupings designated by the authors. Transition from character to character is reasonably handled, but the densely worded script isn't always wonderfully helpful. It was nice to see some diversity of age and ethnicity among the cast, who rendered the story effectively. The inherent emotional intensity registered, I'm sure especially to those new to the story. This is what a theater program should be about, education that extends beyond theater walls.
Directed by Amanda Schlachter, the production kept stage traffic moving effectively. Scenic designer Craig Smith opted for chairs hanging on side flats, with an actor sometimes grabbing one for use during a scene, and two platforms for additional playing areas. It was simple but got the job done. The costumes appeared to be mostly from the actors' closets, possibly with some overview by costume designer Kenji Trujillo. There was room for improvement there. Nick Catanzaro provided excellent projections, often of the real locations where scenes took place. Lighting by Timothy Bourn kept the many scene shifts in focus.
The Laramie Project is about getting Matthew Shepard's story told, and this theatre department did that with reasonable poise. This is a play that needs to produced frequently so that GLBT youth can learn the story, and others as well.
State College of Florida presented The Laramie Project through October 14, 2014, at The Howard Studio Theatre, 5840 26th St W, Bradenton FL. For additional information, visit http://www.scf.edu/CampusLife/NeelPerformingArtsCenter/.
Cast (in alphabetical order):