Stellar cast, flawless play… great night

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“The Laramie Project” cast… from left, Andrea Close, Liz St Clair Long, Hayden Splitt, Michael Cooper, Joel Horwood, Karen Vickery and Meaghan Stewart. At the front is director Chris Baldock. Photo: Janelle McMenamin

Theatre / “The Laramie Project,” directed by Chris Baldock. At Theatre 3 until June 22. Reviewed by ARNE SJOSTEDT.

THIS is a flawlessly constructed play.

“The Laramie Project” achieves a couple of great things through its stellar cast, surgically precise direction and beautifully minimalist set.

It manages to tell the tale of Matthew Shepard, who was brutally murdered in a tragic gay hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming.

And it does this through masterfully replaying interviews recorded by the play’s creators Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, in generous detail and compelling insight.

Yet this play is much more than a collection of interviews. Constructed by experts, it gently weaves its narrative throughout three acts with such careful structure and clarity that you are artfully drawn into the story, its characters and its message.

All of this is important, but one of the most successful, beautiful and poetic things that “The Laramie Project” achieves, both its text and this production, is the delivery of the beauty and space of Wyoming, US.

The play is bookended by, and layered with, insightful descriptions of the time and place that allows imagination to fill up the almost bare Theatre 3 space.

Assisted by graceful, artistic lighting design (Joel Edmonson), what is left is for the performers to take on their roles – and let the story of Shepard’s brutal murder, and the case for change surrounding attitudes toward homosexuality in America’s West, unfold.

Liz St Clair Long, left, and Karen Vickery in “The Laramie Project”. Photo: Janelle McMenamin

This ensemble work is an actor’s delight, which director Chris Baldock and fellow cast take to task with aggressive voracity, as the narrative takes the audience on its many twists and turns.

With two intervals, this is a longish night at the theatre, so say “yes” to that post-dinner, pre-show espresso. Yet a better night at Theatre 3 you will not find.

This play, presented by Mockingbird Theatre, will be followed tonight (May 8) and through the season by “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later”.

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