"Justice" is served
"Doing Justice" is an absorbing documentary piece by Adina Taubman,
based on her interviews with survivors of the Columbine school massacre.
By JOSHUA TANZER
In clear imitation of Anna Deavere Smith, who virtually invented the genre of documentary theater with her interview-based plays about the Los Angeles and Crown Heights riots, Adina Taubman has undertaken a similar one-woman show dramatizing the Columbine school massacre in Littleton, Colorado. The results are hard-hitting in places, and always thought-provoking about what's been not only a one-time tragedy in Colorado but an ongoing horror in schools across the country.
The beginning of the show, in which the actual events of the massacre are described, is surprisingly the one part that lacks the full impact you'd expect, because the witnesses' recollections are presented in short, rapid-fire bursts to give an impression of the chaos at the school. But when it comes to the aftermath, Taubman gives much fuller attention to the survivors' thoughts. We hear from students who lived through the 1999 shootings, parents who lost children at the school, a priest who gives a philosophical view, a journalist who had once interviewed the gun-toting teens, and activists on issues related to school shootings.|
Enough time has passed that many of the kids and their parents now speak of those events with surprising ease. One young man remembers the scene when he and his macho buddies were under fire. "Sean's yelling that he's paralyzed and I say, 'No you're not, it probably just hit a nerve in your back or something,' and called him a pussy." Then he was shot himself.
The striking exceptions are two students who were paralyzed in the shooting. Taubman portrays both in a wheelchair, and speaks with a noticeable dullness, almost as if the characters have lost interest in their own lives or are totally absorbed in their daily physical struggle.
The issues that Littleton residents raise in the wake of the tragedy echo some of the country's most divisive issues guns, religion, parenting, media violence. There's even a girl who makes the surprising point that school ostracism of the kind that befell the two teenage killers could be related to narrow media-generated images of normalcy, like those in women's magazines. Those who are busy trying to live up to the image inflict their resentment on those who aren't. Ultimately, the show is about these two things the voices of the victims and the political lessons that the whole country might learn from the killings.
Taubman has put a lot of work into "Doing Justice," and it pays off in a show that gives us a lot to think about and a glimpse at what's left of people's lives after the shooting is over and the camera crews have gone home. And the theatrical form makes these people in some ways more real than distant television images can.
|AUGUST 24, 2001|
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