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SVSU’s ‘columbinus’ Reveals Our Unhealed Scars

Reviewer: Lisa Purchase

Venue: Malcolm Field Theatre

Saginaw Valley State University is tackling columbinus, a stark retelling of the April 1999  Columbine school shooting that forever changed America. This is an impossible thing to  represent, but Peggy Mead-Finizio’s production and a careful script manage to thread  the needle and create something that feels like a complicated conversation with the  audience. When the play ended, everyone just sat and looked at the stage, and the  names written on the blackboard. There was no curtain call, no bows. Nobody jumped  up to exit. The stunned silence was a fitting tribute and reaction to what had unfolded on  the stage over the past couple hours. 

Against the backdrop of a fluid set designed by Jerry Dennis and dynamic lighting by  Alex Dubowski, the ensemble cast brings the characters to life with raw authenticity.  Courtney Kelly’s costumes effectively distinguish the various characters, reinforcing  their individual identities and struggles. From the jock to the rebel, each archetype is  

imbued with nuance and depth, shedding light on the insecurities and vulnerabilities that  lie beneath the surface. Written by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli, the play skillfully  transitions from the general to the specific, moving from archetypal high school  personas to the real individuals involved in the Columbine massacre. 

Eric Durette and Trent Bergman deliver standout performances as Eric Harris and Dylan  Klebold, capturing the chilling allure of two young men on the brink of violence. Their  interactions with the rest of the cast are electric, highlighting the complex dynamics at  play within the high school ecosystem. Isabel Losa, Scout McCullough, Alex Dubowski,  Lucas Whitlock, Lliam Hamilton-Kraft, and Paige Tuckerman round out the ensemble  with equally compelling portrayals, adding layers of complexity to their respective  characters. 

As the play unfolds, the audience is drawn deeper into the lives of the characters, their  hopes and fears laid bare for all to see. Brief moments of levity are interspersed with  gut-wrenching revelations, culminating in a sense of profound unease as the inevitable  climax approaches. The absence of a curtain call at the end of the performance serves  as a poignant reminder of the lives lost and the scars left behind by the events of that  fateful day. 

In the aftermath of the Columbine shooting, there has been much controversy and  useless blaming, with questions raised about the role of parents, schools, and society at  large. columbinus deftly navigates these complex issues, prompting reflection and  introspection rather than resorting to simplistic explanations or sensationalism. 

Peggy Mead-Finizio has provided workshops and outreach to high school who will  attend a performance of columbinus, and well as counseling and a specialized  rehearsal process for the actors involved in this emotional show.

columbinus is a thought-provoking exploration of tragedy, adolescence, and the human  condition. Through its powerful performances and evocative storytelling, it challenges  audiences to confront uncomfortable truths and engage in meaningful dialogue about  the issues that continue to plague our society. Performances run from April 10th to 14th,  with showtimes as follows: 

  • Wednesday through Saturday @ 7:30pm
  • Sunday @ 3pm

Tickets are available for $15 and can be purchased at the door or online at https:// www.etix.com/ticket/v/27468/svsuperforming-arts-center

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