"columbinus” shines with tragic intensity

March 25, 2005, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 15 years, 5 months ago

Play exposes the loneliness and despair of America's youth

"columbinus," showing at the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring, is a play hoping to show a more objective point of view of the tragic shootings of Columbine High School. The play does not blame the media or the music or the video games, which have all been pointed to as vehicles for the tragic violence but instead the isolation that a person can feel in the complicated social hierarchy of high school.

The play has a very open ending, pointing no fingers at any one person or event, leaving the viewer with plenty to figure out outside of the theatre. The play shows the complexity of the Columbine shootings and the two students behind them, but it also leaves an emptiness and anti-climatic end to a play burning with intensity for almost two and a half hours. The depth of each character is shown through an innovative style in which time is paused and the actor reflects on the moment. This enables characters to further explain their own thinking.

Of the eight characters in the play, the two killers, Dylan Klebold (Will Rogers) and Eric Harris (Karl Miller), are the most in-depth, with both actors playing their parts to their full potential. Miller and Rogers are both able to demonstrate a sense of loneliness that seems a part of every character's life, and both actors, especially Miller, are able to show how this loneliness is transformed into anger and hate. And yet, even though these two characters seem to be the epitome of evil, killing seemingly innocent classmates, it is easy to see the despair and resentment that Klebold and Harris must have felt as they contemplated their plans for murder.

This emotion though is shown through a suburban filter as Klebold and Harris Instant Message each other, fueling each other's rage as their messages are projected onto a large, black chalkboard, which has several other uses during the play. Two jocks fuel this anger as they taunt the two loners into submission.

One reason that this play is so effective is that it is based on facts, whether taken from journal entries, Columbine students or court testimony. It is this sense of reality in a play that makes "columbinus" even more poignant. The viewer not only identifies with Miller or Rogers, but with the real students behind them. Klebold almost seems loveable as he gets pushed around among the popular crowd and asked to read a section of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" to a girl who wants to be his girlfriend. Harris on the other hand, with his fiery temper, is terrifying as he expresses his carnal desires for flesh and death within the same sentences as he tries to justify his uncontrollable rage.

It is in these moments that the tragic reality sets in that Harris and Klebold killed 12 innocent students. And while this play may shed light onto the loneliness of high school it shows few solutions and leaves the viewer with a sense of longing for a cause to grasp onto.

"columbinus" will be playing at the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring through April 3, 2005.

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