Cheesiness, stereotyping ruin Southern play

Jeff Reid

Jeff Reid

Jeff Reid

The story of the death of Matthew Shepherd is a tragic and painful one, full of needless violence and ignorance. But Missouri Southern’s theatre department managed to fix that.

The theatre’s latest production, The Laramie Project, is the story of Shepherd’s death and the impact it had on the people and community of Laramie,Wyo., as told by the people who were there.

The premise behind the play is how Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and conducted hundreds of interviews with the people who lived the story, recording their thoughts and feelings on the tragedy.

From there, they pieced the interviews together into a massive collection of scenes and called it a play.

Now keep in mind, my opinion on this play is coming from the point of view of a regular college student. I am not a theatre major, minor, anything. I haven’t even taken Theatre Appreciation.

That said, this play bordered on ridiculous.

Now I’m not saying the entire play was terrible. In fact, there were some really good moments in the play. But for every good moment or scene, there were at least two bad ones.

The problem with the bad scenes basically fell into a couple of different categories. Since the characters are based on actual people, the actors tried to portray these people the way they are, including their little quirks and other aspects of their personalities.

Ideally, this is what every actor should try to do with a character, but too much of that is a bad thing.

The characters were so overacted and stereotyped that it was borderline offensive. Half the characters were portrayed as redneck idiots, and the other half were depicted as just idiots.

Another problem was the fact that some of the scenes were so incredibly corny, one couldn’t help but laugh.

Take the end scene, for example. Matthew Shepherd was in the middle of the stage, holding his hands up toward a bright light, while other cast members linked arms forming a circle around him and swayed back and forth. Seriously, why didn’t they just lead the audience in a rendition of “Amazing Grace” or something?

Those two facts aside, the other problem was the length of the play. It started at 7:30 p.m., and after a 10 minute intermission, we finally left the theater at 10:45 p.m. So, everything considered, the play was three hours long. Which was about an hour too much.

What would have appealed to me more would have been to cut out some of the second act and just make the play a one act that ran a little longer. Instead, when they announced the intermission, I found myself rolling my eyes, thinking, “Good lord, you mean there is another act still to go?”

Now keep in mind, I’m not bashing the actors or Dr. Jay Fields, the director. I just think that this play had a lot of potential, but it was squandered away on boring scenes and rampant stereotyping.

The play had its moments, it really did. Unfortunately, this was another situation where the good was far outweighed by the stereotyping, length and all-around cheesiness.