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A Review of columbinus

I’m proud to say that my roommate Natasha was the Assistant Props Master for columbinus, an especially impressive title considering that the play hinges on the effectiveness of the props. When Natasha told me that she was seeing the play on Tuesday, February 24th and that I should join her, I excitedly told her that I could watch it with her (even though it was a school night–I’m such a rebel). Much to my dismay, some of her props were not used in the final product, but it was still very interesting to watch. Anyway, I’ll just give you some background information about the play before I tell you the parts that really got to me and my interpretation.

Columbine High School was basically just an ordinary high school in Colorado with jocks, popular girls, goths, nerds, geeks, religious people–you name it. But that’s the scary thing–a devastating mass murder like the 1999 Columbine High School massacre could happen at any high school. The two perpetrators, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, were ostensibly ordinary kids. Although they got bullied by the jocks and the popular girls, they had stable families who loved them.

Tension between the perpetrators and the bullies rose until they decided to exact revenge. Unfortunately for them, they were caught stealing police equipment and sent to complete a juvenile delinquent program. That was a minor setback, however. Through instant messaging and meeting in Dylan’s basement, they planned to use pipe bombs and semi-automatic weapons to leave a “scar” upon the school and to be remembered as the perpetrators of the largest school massacre in history. The night before the massacre, they filmed themselves providing the details of their plan.

Anyway, as for the play, I think it’s really good. There are a few funny parts, notably when all of the boys dance to “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. I’m still thoroughly surprised at how well the actors danced. Not that I thought they were going to be bad, or anything–they were just good. The set is pretty cool, too. There was even a shallow pool (I’ve never seen that in a theater!) that the actors would step in and, above that, an inclined bridge.

I also really liked how the play constructed the environment that made us, the audience and others who know about the massacre, understand the reasons why Dylan and Eric lashed out. Of course, going out and killing 15 students is not an acceptable way to lash out. However, we did see that they were bullied by the popular kids and, in general, ostracized by everyone else. Then again, the play did a great job of showing that, under their facades, people have problems. One of the female characters talks to her mother on the phone, strongly hinting that she thinks her boyfriend may have raped her. It seems to be a cry for help, but her mother lightly brushes the matter aside. What crushed me is how devastated she looks after her mom ignores her traumatic event…it had me in tears.

We also briefly see another female character taking a knife and cutting her wrists (because she’s in emotional pain), a male character talking about how he’s struggling to suppress his romantic/sexual attraction towards his male best friend (while calling everyone “fag”), and a male character who’s a nerd, harassed in gym class for failing to throw the ball into the basketball hoop.

The second act of the show was harder for me to follow; I wasn’t sure if they had already committed the crime, and had trouble figuring out who died in what order (yeah, sorry, that sounds morbid), or who speaks about whose death…I don’t know. It got kind of confusing for me, to say the least. The ending, which illustrates the boys’ parents’ reactions years later, elucidated the fact that the Columbine massacre wasn’t just a cover story for them. The children they raised for many years were with them the day before–and then they were gone. I feel like we all keep forgetting that: While we have a strange mix of disgust, shame, and fascination for the massacre, we live detached from the story. These parents actually lived the terror of outliving their children, not to mention the other family members and friends that were affected.

Other things I thought were noteworthy: the fact that they had the original manuscript of Dylan’s essay on killing students, the original footage from when a teacher called the police, and every instant message that Eric and Dylan sent to one another. The tech team projected the original content onto the screen, which added a whole other dimension to the experience of the play.

Overall, I think that columbinus is a good play that focuses on the taboos of high school and the discomfort of adolescence while reflecting on an infamous historical event. If you haven’t read or seen it yet, please do so!

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Natalie S.

Northeastern

I'm Natalie! I am double majoring in Economics and Psychology at Northeastern University. I like to play piano, watch T.V., paint, draw, read, write, and dance! I speak fluent Spanish as my family is from Argentina and Uruguay, and I have a wonderful twin sister whom I absolutely love.
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