Saturday, May 16, 2009

review - The Columbine Project

Justin Mortelliti (Dylan) and Artie Ahr (Eric), Columbine killers

The Columbine Project
written & directed by Paul Storiale
Avery Schreiber Theatre, NoHo
in extension through May 30

The shock of 1999-senseless murders of students and teachers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado - has been ingeniously recreated for the stage by Paul Storiale. Taking a tour of the school campus and doing several interviews shortly after 1999 and indulging himself in every book written about the incidents, Storiale has managed to create a script that vividly presents events leading up to April 20, 1999 , the day itself ,and its aftermath in the years following until 2002. He makes us feel the reactions of the students involved, the unexplained cruelty of the two student murderers who ruthlessly planned it out for a year, and the sorrow of their parents and those of students killed and injured.
All of this is directed with dynamic skill by Storiale whose enlightening and pulsating play and terrific acting from the entire ensemble put The Columbine Project at the top of your must-see list.
Standouts in the cast are Justin Mortelliti and Artie Ahr as the two killers - spoiled brats bent on hate and fame - Kelli Joan Bennett, superb in 2 roles as Eric's overwrought mother and a terrified teacher, Rya Meyers as the sweet and sincere religious fanatic Rachel Scott, Bradley Michael as gay and unhappy Chris, Bree Pavey as the dedicated Producer, Marguerite Wiseman as Isaiah's sad mother...the list goes on.
Everyone is riveting.
I would have ended the first act sooner (leaving the mother's monologue to open the second act) and, if filmed ( the script lends itself so well to a movie ) I would end the entire piece after the killers' videotaping scene. As is, the finale , with everyone on stage, is a gripping one, eloquently moving and includes a haunting rendition of "Over the Rainbow" sung in the background with guitar accompaniment.
The killers' scenes are graphic and unapologetic. But even for the faint of heart or those opposed to violence, the entire play will grab hold of you and not let go, even after you have left the theatre. This is what good theatre is all about. Its powerful message echoes an awareness that this type of incident could happen anywhere at anytime and to anyone.
5 out of 5 stars.


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