Silver Spring Stage ColumbinusBy McCall Doyle • Apr 14th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Silver Spring Stage
Silver Spring Stage Theater, Silver Spring, MD
$18/$15 Seniors and Juniors (Friday and Saturday)
$15/$13 Seniors and Juniors (Sunday)
Playing through April 26th
Reviewed April 10th, 2009
I really wanted to write the following review: “Columbinus at Silver Spring Stage through 4/26. GO SEE IT!!!”
Then I realized I’d be doing the production a disservice by failing to truly recognize the extraordinary cast and crew that has poured blood, sweat, and tears into it.
I won’t summarize the plot. Most people in this country are all too aware of the tragic events at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
The play is cleverly divided into two acts…the first depicts the average life of any high schooler (from the prom queen to the outcast), and the second deals specifically with the two students who carried out the massacre and the actual victims involved. The dialogue is good and fast paced, taken from actual interviews with students across the nation as well as survivors of the Columbine attack. I was thrown right back into the thick of my teenage years, with all of the fun, uncertainty, youthful arrogance, angst, and triviality of it all.
But what sets this production apart from the rest is the absolute commitment and devotion from the cast and crew. It is lovingly and conscientiously directed by Bridget Muehlberger, and her work is exceptional. Assisting her at the helm was AD Andrea Spitz Greenleaf, an accomplished actress & director in her own right. They have cast the show flawlessly, and have given the blocking an intricate choreography that suited the script perfectly.
In the leading roles of Dylan Klebold (Matt Reckeweg) and Eric Harris (Ryan Manning), both actors give stellar performances. They delve deeper than the stereotypes of “loners” and “freaks”…they give us glimpses into the torture and madness that both experienced. It’s difficult to portray real life characters, especially figures as controversial as these two, but Reckeweg & Manning pull it off with eloquence. Reckeweg’s sensitive performance actually makes the audience sympathetic for his pain at times. Manning’s volatile depiction of Harris is twisted, gritty, and downright frightening.
There are no false notes in the ensemble, but it’s wrong to just list them as “ensemble” when they are onstage almost constantly in a flurry of movements and lines. Despite the brevity of the vignettes, they give us fully developed and identifiable characters, portraying students and teachers alike with ease. Amy Baughman gave a moving performance as a teenager trying to talk to her negligent mother about date rape. Lenora Spahn was very believable as the wannabe popular girl, full of faith and not much confidence. Josh Greenwald was heartbreaking as the brainy kid under pressure to be perfect. Tim Phelps is quite credible as the preppy kid hiding his homosexuality behind a cool façade. Erin Stansfield is an authentic Goth chick who just wants to blend in with everyone else yet maintain her individuality. Ben Davis gave the “Jock” moments of touching vulnerability as well as cocky self assurance.
These are the kids we all know or at least remember from high school. Each actor created such a viable character that I was torn between cringe-worthy memories and uncontrollable giggles. And in my book, that’s pretty amazing.
So integral to the production was the lighting (Chris Curtis) and sound design (Kevin Garrett) that they should be considered part of the ensemble cast! It was masterfully thought out and executed perfectly, setting powerful moods and lingering images. Andrew Greenleaf has always been able to create an elaborate set; here, the beauty is in its functional simplicity and incredibly done special effects.
It is a highly emotional, gripping, and touching show that everyone should see…it reminds us that words do have the power to hurt…that the scars of verbal and emotional abuse suffered at any age can have long lasting and often devastating repercussions. Let us never forget this incident or the similar ones that have been cropping up in recent news with alarming frequency. Let us be kinder to each other, and families more involved with each other.
See this show. It is a standout that should make Silver Spring Stage very proud.
One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked about directing this play is, Why? Why this play? Why now? The events at Columbine High School happened 10 years ago, and have been eclipsed by other more heinous shootings (Nickel Mines Amish elementary school, 5 girls aged 7 – 13, and the Virginia Tech shooting of 5 teachers and 27 students). Why columbinus?
For me, the question answered itself on March 11, 2009 when a 17-year old German gunman killed 15 people, including 3 teachers and 9 students, at his former school. In ten years, we have come no closer to understanding the reasons behind these inconceivable acts and we find the questions raised in columbinus remain as relevant today as they were in Littleton, Colorado a decade ago.
Through columbinus, playwright PJ Paparelli uses the immediacy of theater to bring an audience closer to this experience and asks, “How do we treat each other? Why do we treat each other the way we do? Why do kids who will soon ask these questions about their kids, continue to treat each other the same way? Why does the cycle never change? Why do we look for an easy answer when we know in our hearts that something deeper inside us has to change?”
For me, this play is about personal connection and listening – each of us making the effort to personally connect to what is happening, not only in far away places, but in our own backyards. Understanding that this connection is critical in order to reach the depths of today’s youth – to connect with the frustration, confusion, anger, fear and doubts young people are experiencing in a world very different from our own adolescence – a world where, for many of today’s youth, the sense of isolation is deepening much more than the ones before, and the way they choose to address their isolation becomes more and more desperate.
columbinus does not offer any answers, but begs that the questions continue to be asked and discussed. It is not the play’s intent to trivialize the immense tragedy, nor glorify the horrific events, but to humanize them – to force us to connect to this tragedy, to continue to question, and to listen.
- Freak/Eric Harris: Ryan Manning
- Loner/Dylan Klebold: Matt Reckeweg
- AP: Josh Greenwald
- Prep: Timothy Phelps
- Jock: Ben Davis
- Faith: Lenora Spahn
- Perfect: Amy Baughman
- Rebel: Erin Stansfield
- Producers: Michael Kharfen, Bridget Muehlberger
- Director: Bridget Muehlberger
- Assistant Director: Andrea Spitz
- Stage Manager: Craig Allen Mummey
- Technical Director: Don Slater
- Set Designer: Andrew Greenleaf
- Master Carpenter: Andrew Greenleaf
- Set Construction: Andrew Greenleaf
- Scenic Design: Andrew Greenleaf
- Costume Designer: Rachael Feola
- Lighting Designer: Chris Curtis
- Sound Designer: Kevin Garrett
- Special Effects and Projections: Andrew Greenleaf
- Properties: Brian Dettling, Sonya Okin
- Set Dressing: Andrew Greenleaf, David Greenleaf
- Weaponry: Brian Dettling
- Stage Combat Choreography: Brian Dettling, Ben Davis, Ryan Manning, Matt Reckeweg
- Makeup and Hair: The Cast
- Lighting and Sound Operators: Chris Curtis, Kevin Garrett, Andrea Spitz
- Photographer: Clare Palace
- Program: Leta Hall
- Program Cover Design: Audrey Cefaly, Kevin Garrett, Ryan Manning
- Subscription Brochure: Craig Allen Mummey
- Artistic Liaison: Laurie T. Freed
- Hospitality Coordinator: Laurie T. Freed
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/3693.