Saturday, July 27, 2013

Serendipity's "The Laramie Project" Tells of Tragic Reaction/Treatment to/of Gays

The Laramie Project is being presented by Serendipity Players in downtown Vancouver. This Obie award-winning play is written by Moises Kaufman and directed by Tony Broom and Kate Flanagan at the Serendipity Players location on Washington and 5th. It runs through August 17th. For more information go to their website at or call 360-834-3588 for tickets.

This is event is part of the Gay Pride month in Vancouver. The horrific incident happened in Laramie, Wyoming in the Fall of 1998. The author and the Tectonic Theater Project descended for 18 months on this small town conducting over 200 interviews. This play is the result of that endeavor.

Aaron Filyaw, Maury Evans and Jordan Mui
The facts, simply put, were that two drunken young men, residents of Laramie,
kidnapped Matthew Shepard, a gay student from the University, and took him to a secluded location, robbed him, tied him to a fence post, beat and tortured him and left him to die. And for one reason only. He was Gay. The ultimate hate crime.

But that is only part of the story. The other part deals with the townsfolk and their reactions to Gays, as well as a breeding ground for the two thugs that murdered him. You hear from the religious factions, the college, the long-time residents, his friends and family, as well as the killers and their people. What is surprising is that, in the end, it is pretty much a typical American town. Divided, yes, with rednecks and ultra religious conservative on one side and the students and the more progressive thinkers on the other. As I said, typical American town.

The Production and Players

The production is done more like a Reader’s Theatre than a conventional presentation. It is performed by ten individuals, dressed in black, with occasional accessories to identify characters, playing a variety of roles. They are all seated onstage during the entire show, standing and conversing when the situation suggests it. This might sound tedious but the material is so rich in actual testimonies from the real people that it becomes riveting most of the time.

Andres Houseman
Some of the story focuses in on the various religious factions. The most zealot condemning him for sinning against God’s Word (but it’s all right to torture and murder him?! I don’t think so). Some of it narrows in on the family and friends of both parties, being very articulate on how this incident has affected their lives. The most moving being from Matthew’s father (Maury Evans) in a painful recall on his son’s thinking in his final hours. And, of course, the painful growth that has taken shape in this country for the Gay Movement, triggered, in part, by this event.

I admire actors that can take on the mantle of several characters relying, almost exclusively, on their own abilities. For the most part, they do well. Some seemed to be struggling with lines at times and the pacing should be picked up in places, especially in Act II. But, by in large, they did very well with some difficult material.

Mimi Wilaki, Aaron Filyaw, Mara McGreevey, Mason Hall,
and Rebecca Rowland Hines
Especially effective were Mara McGreevey as the Muslim woman, Rebecca Rowland Hines as various townspeople and Aaron Filyaw as the student who defies his parents by performing in Angels In America at the school.

Outstanding were Maury Evans as a long-time Gay resident, a Catholic priest, an examining policeman
and, as mention, powerful as Matthew’s father. Also impressive is Gene Biby (head of Clark’s drama dept.) in various roles. He brings an ease and inevitability in approaching his characters. He was extremely effective as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and the director of Rent, both at Clark College. A talent I hope we’ll see involved in many more productions.

Ia Solis "is captivating."
And Ia Solis, as various characters, is amazing. She owns the stage when she speaks! She is articulate, concise and totally captivating. She is a talent to be reckoned with and I hope to see more of her “on the boards.”

Broom (Serendipity’s Artistic Director and co-founder) and Flanagan’s direction is quite compelling, letting the dialogue and characters dominate the stage. They have assembled a fine cast to tell a difficult and complex story. As mentioned, all it requires is to be tightened up in places. A brave choice that needs to be seen.

I recommend this play as it is both educational and engrossing. But it is about very adult situations so may not be for everyone. If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

Tickets are $15 general admission and may be purchased online at, or reservations can be made by calling 360-834-3588. Tickets are also available at the door. Doors open 30 minutes before the performance.

By Dennis Sparks, Guest Reviewer

All photos provided

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