Challenging a Community

When a theatre company takes on a challenging, lauded play like The Laramie Project — particularly a volunteer-based community outfit like Langham Court — it can be a risky endeavour. And not just because of the show’s content, which deals with the brutal beating and murder of a gay college student in Laramie, Wyoming; there is also a concern that a smaller company with budgetary limitations may not have the resources to do the script justice. I’m happy to report that Langham’s Laramie doesn’t merely do the play justice — this is a production that is a high watermark not just for their current season, but for the five years I’ve been attending shows there.

Gloria Snider (left) and Nicole Evans in The Laramie Project

Gloria Snider (left) and Nicole Evans in The Laramie Project

Lauding Langham’s Laramie

When a theatre company takes on a challenging, lauded play like The Laramie Project — particularly a volunteer-based community outfit like Langham Court — it can be a risky endeavour. And not just because of the show’s content, which deals with the brutal beating and murder of a gay college student in Laramie, Wyoming; there is also a concern that a smaller company with budgetary limitations may not have the resources to do the script justice. I’m happy to report that Langham’s Laramie doesn’t merely do the play justice — this is a production that is a high watermark not just for their current season, but for the five years I’ve been attending shows there.

When the world’s gaze was drawn to Laramie in 1998 after 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was savagely beaten, tied to a barbwire fence and left to die in an apparent anti-gay hate crime, New York City’s Tectonic Theater travelled to the small town to create a play. Moisès Kaufman and the other Tectonic members conducted hundreds of interviews with residents of Laramie and crafted The Laramie Project from transcriptions of said conversations. The result is docu-theatre; the story of Shepard — and, eventually, the community of Laramie — is told via short vignettes involving various community members and even the Tectonic Theater members themselves.

Director Roger Carr has assembled a massive 33-person cast to portray the 60-plus characters in the play, and there wasn’t a weak performance in the bunch. From eccentric limo driver Doc O’Connor (played by Kevin Stinson) to Nicole Evans’ take on sassy policewoman Reggie Fluty, all of the cast members gave convincing, heartfelt performances. Highlights were definitely Dusty Smith’s tear-jerking speech as Matthew’s father Dennis Shepard, Sean Baker as University of Wyoming student Jedadiah Schultz, Evans’ turn as Reggie Fluty, and Girodana Venturi as Matthew’s friend Romaine Patterson.

The show is extremely well-directed; the short scenes and large number of characters mean there is a lot of coming and going, but Carr has ensured it’s all very fluid — a scene involving four local ministers was particularly well done. While I enjoyed the majority of Karrie Wolfe’s lighting design, there were a few instances where strong shadows on faces were a bit distracting.

Julius Maslovat has crafted a simple and functional set, comprised of four different levels and a few blocks, with the barbwire fence looming ominously in the background. Nancy Roach’s projections were very effective in some instances — images of the Wyoming skyline and flickering candles come to mind — but distracting in others, such as when we see pictures of the perpetrators’ vehicle pulling away or photoshopped road signs. But these are very minor complaints in what is a truly powerful theatre-going experience.

Sometimes, we go to the theatre to escape reality. Taking in a performance of The Laramie Project is not one of those times; each “you know?” and “like” in the script is a reminder that this play is comprised entirely of words spoken by real people affected by this tragedy. But sometimes, theatre is about witnessing a piece of work that will truly move you —and that’s what Langham’s production is sure to do.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Most Read