Columbinus looks back on April 20, 1999 | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Columbinus looks back on April 20, 1999 

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the young ensemble have grown up in a new century of seemingly endless escalating gun violence in America.

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Krista Wortendyke

The Yard, a professional company of teenage actors, brings extraordinary urgency to its mounting of this powerful theater piece about the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado. Created by the United States Theatre Project and written by P.J. Paparelli and Stephen Karam, Columbinus is drawn largely from documentary sources-including diaries, e-mails, Internet posts, and homemade videos left behind by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine seniors who on April 20, 1999, went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 12 students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves. But this isn't your standard fact-focused docudrama. It employs choral speech, ritualized group movement, and multimedia elements to explore the ecosphere of identity crisis, anxiety, and alienation that is high school for many adolescents.

Watching this show, it's impossible to ignore the fact that the young ensemble—gifted, passionate, and focused—are part of the "Columbine generation," people who were born after the tragedy and have grown up in a new century of seemingly endless escalating gun violence in America.

Director Mechelle Moe's expansion of the play's cast from the originally intended eight to 16 players gives the production a heightened intensity and authenticity, especially in the intimate surroundings of Steppenwolf's 1700 space. Ervin Tobar and Brian Baren as Harris and Klebold don't look much like the boys they play, but their portrayal of two outsiders bound by a common sense of aggrievement and murderous purpose is raw and painful.   v

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