A Line in the Sand
nytheatre.com review by Kim Wadsworth
July 15, 2007
Nine years ago, after hearing about the Columbine school shootings, playwright Adina Taubman was moved to do something for the community affected; so she flew to Littleton, Colorado to talk to the survivors, parents of the victims, and anyone who was willing, or needed, to talk. Her one-woman show A Line In The Sand is the result of her seven visits to Littleton and the conversations she had; for just over an hour, Taubman plays more than a dozen different parts, each someone she spoke to in Littleton.
The piece itself covers mostly familiar ground. We've heard from several of these people before—the parents of victims, including those of Isaiah Shoels, the only black victim, and Lance Kirklin, one of the survivors; we've heard the tales of the "Trenchcoat Mafia"; we've heard the theories that bullying or inattentive parents or gun laws led to the tragedy; we've heard complaints about the media's approach to the disaster and the controversy about whether Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were troubled kids or evil ones.
But Taubman also brings us some surprises, and some striking details. One survivor reports that in the midst of the attack she was inexplicably worried about swallowing her chewing gum. Another survivor speaks out in favor of the Second Amendment. We hear one student complain about a question she got from a self-involved television anchorman during Columbine's memorial, and we hear a pawn shop owner relate a chilling tale of an encounter he had with the mother of one of the survivors who'd decided she'd simply had enough grief. We also hear one student tell a story from the Columbine School prom, shortly before the incident, when she and her friends all danced together—and among the dancers were her friend Dylan Klebold, and also there was her other friend Rachel Scott, one of those whom Dylan shot and killed days later.
We also hear from Scott and Klebold themselves. Throughout the show, director Padraic Lillis uses pre-recorded audio and slides, projected on a "banner" onstage, to give Taubman a bit of a break and to let us see photos of the victims. We also get to see more into the minds of the two, from journal entries kept by Harris and Klebold (read by Michael Hauschild and Michael Callahan), as well as hearing the journal entries of Rachel Scott (read by actress Olivea Wooden Virta).
The piece is still largely Taubman's performance. While at times, I felt one or two of her "characters" to be relying more on caricature than performance, others were especially affecting; particularly Devan, the girl who'd befriended both Klebold and Scott, and who at one point in the play discusses how she had been invited to both of their funerals. It's a decision no teenager should have to make, and yet, in Taubman's performance you see exactly how a teenager would behave when explaining what it was like.
The biggest danger Taubman faces with the material is its very familiarity—throughout most of the play, some audience members could wonder why we are looking so extensively at a nine-year-old incident. But a coda to the piece deftly responds to any such complaints—one last slide, showing a list of all the school shootings that have happened since Columbine, culminating with the Virginia Tech shootings this year. We may have heard Taubman's work before, but she implies that the dangers of not continuing to talk anyway might be too great.