Friday, June 20, 2014

Wyoming Returns to New York

One of the things I love about New York is that in every nook and cranny of the vast city, theatrical productions abound. The city is more than the league of Broadway houses that tourists know so well. Off-Broadway flourishes in a way much different than the rules of Broadway. And then we have off-off Broadway where artist can be artist and one can sense they are in the presence of performers who are there for the love of it.

That's how I felt attending The Seeing Place Theater on West 54th Street.

The company has been in existence for five seasons and have garnered wonderful reviews from their productions. They pride themselves on being an actor's ensemble where performers are allowed to change up their performance each evening - living in the moment. This makes for a unique and different experience and as an audience member - you can actually feel the spontaneity in the air. 

Laramie Ensemble
For pride month, they are in the middle of presenting The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and the Members of the Tectonic Theater Project. For those few that do not remember this amazing project, members traveled to Laramie, Wyoming after Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die on a fence - all for being gay. The story took the country by storm - bringing hate crimes and the LGBT community into the living rooms of all on the nightly news. The year was 1998, two years before same-sex marriage first was introduced to the US in Vermont and one month before Hawaii and Alaska passed constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage. In short, the world was different 16 years ago.

Cast of Laramie
And this is one of the reasons I applaud Artistic Director Brandon Walker and Managing Director Erin Cronican who co-directed this production. They understood the importance of history. That one must be reminded so as not to repeat it. And what an incredible production they have in this small space on the 4th floor of a building where the story feels as timely today as when the horrible tragedy first happened. This fine ensemble of actors change seamlessly into different characters as they allow the people of Laramie to tell their story through monologues. Both Walker and Cronican are part of the 8 member ensemble and each actor brilliantly maneuvers their way across the terrain of diverse characters - bringing each to life. This is not a show in which one calls out one over another because they all carry so much weight, so much importance - and not a weak link in the bunch. Traveling to prop tables and clothes racks to morph into different ages, genders - real people…the ensemble is always in character no matter where they are on stage. I was spellbound of how they managed to transport us with few set pieces, string of lights to represent the vast night sky - and that chalkboard wall: wow. Powerful theater.

Jonathan Miles, Elle Emerson, Kathryn Neville Brown
You still have time to see this show. Don't miss it. Even if you've seen it before, you owe it to yourself to witness Kathryn Neville Browne, Erin Cronican, John D’Arcangelo, Elle Emerson, Logan Keeler, Jonathan Miles, Christina M Pastor, and Brandon Walker.  

The Seeing Place Theater located at 314 West 54th Street. The Laramie Project runs through June 29th. 

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