Columbinus: An Inventive Look at the Infamous Attack

“Intense” was the first word that came to Weinberg freshman Erin Bennett’s mind after seeing the Northwestern production of Columbinus.

The show is based on the April 20, 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured 24 others before committing suicide. The play takes a multi-faceted look at the killers as well as high school life in general.

Eight students, nameless except for a one-word description, represent various stereotypes. For example, there’s “Perfect,” the most popular girl in school; “AP,” a smart but anxious boy; and “Rebel,” an artsy and stubborn girl. At first, each of the characters seems to be nothing more than a perpetuation of their respective stereotype, but they turn out to have complicated lives that cannot be described by just one word. “Perfect” is not so perfect, “Prep” has a forbidden unrequited love, and “Freak” and “Loner”? They’re planning to shoot up the school.

The play is fascinating in its use of many different storytelling devices: the actors switch roles from their designated characters to the voices inside one of the students’ heads to ESPN-style sideline commentators as the two main characters construct bombs for their attack. Graphic design also plays a major role in Columbinus. At one point, the audience sees an entire instant messaging conversation between the shooters projected on a screen above the stage, and at another, the boys’ trash-talking German conversation (likely a reference to their alleged neo-Nazi ways) is translated on the same screen.

Additionally, Columbinus includes reenactments of actual videos the boys left behind, reports of their behavior from counselors and eyewitness testimonials of the massacre.

The inventive storytelling and factual elements combine to tell the shocking true story of two highly disturbed teenagers in a startling way, and the NU production featured talented actors and a highly skilled production team. Each of these strong components resulted in a show that can only be described as intense.