Ten years ago the United States witnessed one of the worst tragedies in modern history. The attack by two deeply disturbed and alienated students from Columbine High School, which left twelve students and one teacher dead, deeply shocked the nation and acted as a wake-up call asking us to reexamine our educational system and the unhealthy environment that exists in the nation's schools.
A new play by Paul Storiale called The Columbine Project examines the events and the possible motives of the people involved. By doing an incredible amount or research into the eyewitness accounts as well as the personal diaries of the killers and the victims, Storiale has created a gripping, gut-wrenching play that left many in the audience stunned and weeping.
The story recounts how a sociopathic young man, Eric Harris, together with a weak-willed but intellectual follower, Dylan Klebold, systematically hatched a plot to kill 250 of their fellow students and teachers to gain revenge for being ignored and/or mistreated and to create a crime so heinous that a video game would be made of their slaughter. Storiale does not sentimentalize their story but shows how even good parents and alert teachers could have missed the underlying alienation these boys suffered.
He makes no excuse for their actions, instead laying out several “reasons” for them: violent video games; peer pressure and an atmosphere where all but the jocks were called “faggot”; common teenage anxiety and the desire to belong; the silence of school officials in the face of the alienation and abuse happening under their noses; parents' desire to trust their children, which can blind them to how their kids can manipulate them; and the overall violence in our society as a whole. Through heartbreaking passages from diaries, recreations of the scene inside the school, the 911 calls, and court proceedings, this sad tale is told.
The cast is generally quite good, especially the two boys who play Eric (a chilling Artie Ahr) and Dylan (a sensitive Justin Mortelliti). Rya Meyers plays the devout Christian girl with the good heart, Rachel Scott, who was the first victim. Her reading of her diary was a highlight. Evan Enslow was strong as the boys' friend Brooks Brown. Marguerite Wiseman was especially powerful as the mother of a black student who was brutally murdered solely because he was black.
The play still needs some tweaking, and the broad stage and the need to get furniture on and off made some of the staging slow. A better set might have solved some of the problem. The Columbine Project plays at the Avery Schreiber Theatre until May 16th.