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A CurtainUp Review
The Columbine Project
By Julia Furay
Author/director Paul Anthony Storialehas constructed his play from interviews with survivors, journal entries, news reports, 9-1-1 calls and various other firsthand sources. Storiale's script uses all these sources and mixes them up, frequently jumping from many months before the shootings to years afterward. Most prominently, Storiale documents the alienation and dark ambitions of the murderers, Eric Harris (Artie Ahr) and Dylan Klebold (Justin Mortelliti). There's also the story of the sweet and compassionate Rachel Scott (Rya Meyers), who was the first of Eric and Dylan's victims that day, and the effect the massacre had on Eric's mother (Kelli Joan Bennett) and Dylan's close friend, Brooks Brown (Evan Enslow).
This is an ambitious piece of theater with some moments of real pathos. However, despite the riveting subject matter, The Columbine Project as a play is something of a mess. To begin with, Storiale's dramatic construction is disappointingly slipshod. Consequently it comes off as more of a collection of random moments rather than a cohesive retelling of what happened. In addition, Storiale has added some original material to augment the primary sources that make up most of the play. Unfortunately these slice-of-high-school-life add-ons scenes are banal and make the show drag.
To add to the play's inherent flaws, the production values are disappointingly low. The set (by Josh Iacovelli) looks amateurish and consists of just a few pieces against some curtains; neither does Graham Kindred's lighting add much texture. Most problematically of all in this problem riddled production, the enormous 19-member cast is mostly clueless about portraying the teens and adults at Columbine. Perhaps another director could have coaxed more realism into the performances.
The poorly constructed script and clunky staging makee The Columbine Project seem a truly disappointing take on the tragedy and in fact comes without the ring of accuracy. Anyone interested in getting the full story can look to reporter Dave Cullen's exhaustive and masterful book Columbine, which brilliantly exposes myths about the shootings, analyzes the characters of Eric and Dylan, delves into the effect the tragedy had on its community and the nation at large, and gives us a blow-by-blow account of exactly what happened that day. Cullen's book is moving and informative in a way that makes The Columbine Project look hackneyed and manipulative by comparison. The Columbine shootings may have enormous potential to become a gripping piece of theatre, but unfortunately The Columbine Project doesn't
Editor's Note: Curtainup reviewed another play about Columbine some time ago. To read how that dealt with the tragedy, see Columbinus.
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