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Revisiting a hate crime in 'The Laramie Project'

Allison-Rose DeTemple ( left) with other cast members

Allison-Rose DeTemple ( left) with other cast members ( right) in " The Laramie Project " in front of a projection showing the fence to which Matthew Shepard was tied after he was beaten. The play continues Thursday and Friday, Feb. 4 and 5, 2010, Center Stage in Southampton. Photo by Tom Kochie Credit: Tom Kochie/Tom Kochie

More than a decade has passed since Matthew Shepard, a diminutive, 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, was crucified for being gay. Shortly after that hate crime was committed, the New York-based Tectonic Theatre Project began its series of interviews with residents of Laramie, Wyo., about their thoughts, experiences and firsthand accounts of that horrible night and its trying aftermath.

Written by Moisés Kaufman, "The Laramie Project" premiered in 2000. Last fall, on the 11th anniversary of Shepard's death, the company debuted its sobering follow-up, "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later," simultaneously at theaters across the country.

Having seen both productions at Port Jefferson's Theatre Three, I thought it would be enlightening to revisit the original "Laramie Project." Ably directed by Michael Disher for Southampton's Center Stage, the docudramatic play continues for two more performances. If you've never seen "The Laramie Project" or its sequel - but perhaps especially if you have - this opportunity should not be missed.

Despite the recitative nature of this postmortem testimonial, "Project" retains its harrowing juxtaposition of humanity and inhumanity.

We're moved as Vay David, self-described best bartender in town, frets about her police officer daughter, displaying a stoic sense of duty as played by Allison-Rose DeTemple, who was exposed to Shepard's HIV-positive blood at the crime scene. We wonder what causes a supposed minister (played by James Macaluso) to proclaim, "Fags die, God laughs." Never mind what causes two Shepard contemporaries - Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were also 21 - to beat him savagely and leave him to die lashed to a buck fence. Daniel and James Yaiullo make achingly callow murderers.

What have we learned? Perhaps, sadly, not much. In the follow-up "Project," most Laramie residents say they've "moved on," and many have recast the crime as a robbery gone bad.

WHAT "The Laramie Project," by Moisés Kaufman

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. tomorrow and Friday at the Center Stage, Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane

INFO $22, $10 students;, 631-287-4377

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