#49. Where were you when Matthew Shepard was bludgeoned to death for being gay? Shocking tragedies remain in our long term memory by associating them to a personal moment. 911: I heard on a radio at a coffee shop. Princess Diane: I opened my front door and read the headline. Whitney Houston: I was on a bus and read a tweet. I don’t know where I was when Matthew Shepard was killed because the news wasn’t news yet. But since October 12, 1998, I’ve come to know who Matthew Shepard was. The details of his death horrify me. And the reason for his death devastates me. I hate the people who hate gays.
Redtwist Theatre presents the Chicago premiere production of THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER. After the death of Matthew Shepard, the Tectonic Theatre Project conducted a series of one-on-one meetings in Laramie, Wyoming. Along with trial transcripts, Tectonic used the interviews to create the iconic “The Laramie Project,” one of the most-produced plays in the U.S. and around the world. A decade later, the Tectonic Theatre Project returned to the scene of the crime. What they found was startling! The fence was gone. The town was divided. The facts were disputed. Through a series of interviews with police, family, friends, townsfolk, university students, legislators and the killers, Tectonic generated an epilogue in the rippling aftermath of Matthew Shepard’s murder. THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER disturbs with reminiscences laced with veracity and mendacity.
This show is a documentary in 3-D. Under the expert direction of Greg Kolack, the eight member ensemble morph into an entire community. Slipping on a vest or glasses, the actor becomes another person. The interviews seamlessly combine for a comprehensive review of the good, bad and the apathetic. The back and forth viewpoints between ‘Laramie is a town not a project’ and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) rights is riveting. Many recollections start with ‘I heard’ which support opinion based in rumor. In 2004, the television show 20/20 reinvestigated the Shepard case. 20/20 disputed the hate crime facts and announced the robbery-gone-bad theory. This tabloid expose fueled the ignorance and anger of the interviewees in this sequel. …And we wonder why people hate the media?
Kolack paces the show with deliberate and thoughtful movement. The cast is on stage for the duration of the show. They sit on the sidelines, four on each side. With ongoing perfect timing, one actor announces who is about to talk and another actor steps into the moment. It’s exceptionally well-done. For more poignant soliloquies, the actor delivers his/her message and steps slightly offstage into the shadows. It allows the powerful message to linger behind. Although the entire cast was sublime, I was incredibly disturbed by Matthew Klingler’s performance as an aggressive 20/20 producer but mostly as a cold-blooded killer, Aaron McKinney. Klingler’s excited description of his new gun purchase followed by a non-emotional blow by blow of the murder was gasp-worthy.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER is considered the companion piece to the “Laramie Project.” Don’t let your failure to see the first play, stop you from seeing this production. I haven’t seen the “Laramie Project.” I want to. And I will. But to me, THE LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER is even more significant. Sure, right after something horrific happens, a community responds with support. Everyone wants to help heal the hurt right after an accident. But it’s more important to work toward a solution that ensures no one else gets hurt. That hate is not tolerated. That all people are protected by equal rights. I look forward to “The Laramie Project: Twenty Years Later” that shows a community and a country more evolved. That the term *hate crime* is obsolete because people have stopped hating.
Production photograph courtesy of Kimberly Loughlin
Running Time: One hour and fifty-five minutes includes an intermission
At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr
Written by Moises Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris, and Stephen Belber
Directed by Greg Kolack
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru April 7th
Buy Tickets at www.redtwist.org