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A review

'Columbinus' at Lincoln College a profound and intense look at the high school experience

By Tom Baer

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[March 07, 2009]  If you want to stretch out your legs and bask in a feel-good tale, you can rent a romantic comedy. Lincoln College's latest production, "Columbinus," was a profound and intense story about the high school experience, brought to life by an impressive array of spot-on character representations by the student-actors of LC. 

Restaurant"Columbinus," presented Feb. 26-March 1 under the direction of Chris Gray, explored the lives of high school students from different social strata. While not a simple retelling of the events that devastated Columbine High School in 1999, the play looks microscopically into how such an event could have occurred. The frightening conclusion: What happened at Columbine could happen anywhere and it's not necessarily the stereotypical heavy-metal-listening, head-banging recluse who pulls the trigger. 

At the outset, the audience meets eight cast members portraying eight different levels of the high school hierarchy: Faith, the Bible-toting good girl, portrayed in the LC production by Marjorie White; Perfect, the popular, pretty girl who seems to have it all, played by Briana Trimble; AP, the academic whiz kid, portrayed by Josh Dobkins; Prep, the cool, Abercrombie-wearing, gets-along-with-everyone type of guy, played by Charles Garmon; Jock, the passionate sports star who views everything as a competition, played by John Anderson Jr.; Freak, the student in the corner who's "not quite right," portrayed by Zach Williams; Rebel, the cutter who disregards the rules of high school society, portrayed by Tinesheia Howard; and Loner, the student no one really knows, nor wants to, portrayed by Pierre Phipps. 

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The audience quickly learns how these eight view one another, and, for the most part, each student forms an opinion of the others based on the stereotype, not the actual person. For example, Perfect, so says the others, has a seemingly ideal, stress-free life. Why wouldn't she? She's the epitome of what every high school student wants to be -- good-looking with an endless list of friends. And Jock is a sports hero, relishing in the adulation from the high school community for his athletic deeds. 

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The audience learns, though, that beyond the stereotypes live real teens with real teenage problems. Remember Perfect, whose life couldn't be any better? She's raped and becomes pregnant. Certainly not idyllic. Faith questions God, Prep is busy hiding his homosexuality, and AP collapses under the academic pressure. In short, the play's message here is that it's every teen, not just those on the fringe of high school civilization, who has problems, and such problems magnify in the cocoon known as high school. 

Eventually, Freak and Loner morph into Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the real Columbine shooters, and take over the school. We all know the events that followed in those hallways and classrooms: Harris and Klebold claimed 13 victims before ending their own lives. 

But to truly understand what this play represents, the audience must look beyond the murderous rampage of two out-of-touch teens such as Harris and Klebold. Would it be such a stretch to imagine Perfect, dealing with the emotional trauma of rape and impending parenthood, picking up a gun out of frustration? And could AP "lose it" after years of nothing but hard-core studying? Certainly such hypotheticals are conceivable, and that's the point. Sure, in Columbine's case the killers fit the mold of what killers should be: castaways in trench coats lashing out at the people who ignored them and made them feel inferior. But, given the right (or wrong) circumstances, the person who snaps next time might just be the prom queen.

[Text from file received from Tom Baer]

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