The Laramie Project: An Emotional Marathon for Experienced Heart Athletes

By Kelly Rudolph, James Madison University

“You could have heard a pin drop.”

The soundscape of an onstage courtroom was reflected in the house during Ole Miss Theatre’s performance of The Laramie Project at Mill Mountain Theatre. Despite the three hour run time and the initial slowness of the introduction to the people of Laramie, Wyoming, I was glued to the stage.

The production never pretended to be anything other than a documentary of a town left reeling from the loss of one of their own. Both homophobic and sympathetic characters were most times kept far from the realm of caricature; I only wish I could have seen the actors costumed more ambiguously. Even with minor costume changes, the infinity scarves, skinny jeans, and combat boots were a disservice to the ensemble’s emotional dexterity.

That minor hiccup was quickly overshadowed by strong geometry in the staging and flexible actors. Adam Brooks set the bar high when introduced as the Sheriff, who appeared twice the size of Brooks’ lithe frame through his mannerisms alone. The Marge and Reggie moments displayed a genuine mother and daughter bond brought alive by Rachel Staton and Jade Genga. Most precise and candid of the ensemble was Nathan Burke, who dominated the stage in his brief moments as Matthew Shepherd’s mourning father.

The world that the ensemble spun with their presence and words alone was tangible and vibrant. I left emotionally compromised in the best way possible.