Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.


Karl Miller and Will Rogers
On April 20, 1999 the country was in a collective state of shock. During the days and weeks that followed one couldn't turn on a television set or a radio without hearing the name Columbine. It was on that April day that Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold brutally attacked the school, leaving terror and death in their wake. Many questioned their motives. Were these boys just angry teens or heartless Nazi sympathizers? Was there something more to their vicious crimes and subsequent suicides? PJ Paparelli delves into these questions in his new work, columbinus.

Round House Theatre's Silver Spring location is presenting the world premiere of this piece, which is both provocative and deeply troubling. The play is set in a fictional high school in Littleton, Colorado and it takes place in the time leading up to and including the attack on Columbine. Even though the school is said to be fictional, real names of the people involved are used.

Paparelli's focus is on Harris and Klebold, but he also expands his view to a cross section of the high school population. Additional characters include a jock, a popular girl, the religious goody-two-shoes, the prep, the brain and the freak. Paparelli has combined transcripts, interviews and original material to paint a picture that is quite frightening. He digs beneath the surface of all of these kids and shows that appearances aren't always as they seem.

The play itself is constructed well but some of the language and situations that are portrayed can be rough. For the most part, the piece moves well. However, the opening scene is a bit disjointed. There is an eerie quality to the play because some of Harris and Klebold's own words are used. Some may be surprised at how sympathetic the two killers appear at times. Both had unhappiness in their lives but it is a harassed and unhappy Klebold who garners the most pity while Harris is portrayed as a sick and demented young man.

The play is performed by a fine group of young actors. With the exception of Karl Miller (Eric Harris) and Will Rogers (Dylan Klebold), cast members portray a variety of characters. Both Miller and Rogers give excellent performances. Another standout is Ekatrina Oleksa who plays Klebold's love interest among other roles. Her portrayals of both a confused teenage girl and an obtuse single mother are quite convincing.

Tony Cisek's set utilizes the black box theater well. The stage is a simple basketball court with a large chalk board behind it. The chalk board is used by the actors and is also a place to show projections. Recognized local actor JJ Kaczynski shows off his talent in graphic design by providing some very good projections. They are joined by Dan Covey's somber but appropriate lighting design. Additionally, Denise Umland's costumes are very well thought out, with special attention to detail.

Anyone who is familiar with the Columbine story knows how this show will end, and it is done with dramatic effect. The result is unsettling and that is exactly how it should be. By no means is this a perfect show, but it achieves what it sets out to do. Parents should note that it deals with some very disturbing issues and it may not be appropriated for children. columbinus runs at Round House Theatre through April 3rd.

Round House Theatre
March 2nd —April 3rd
Conceived and Directed by PJ Paparelli
8641 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD
Ticket Information: 240-5644-1100 or

Cast List: Anne Bowles, Jeanne Dillon, James Flanagan, Daniel Frith, Gene Gillette, Karl Miller, Ekatrina Oleska, Will Rogers.

Photo: Scott Suchman

-- Tracy Lyon

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.

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