Caught in the Fact

It couldn't be larger, in any respect, than the material contained in Adina Taubman's solo piece Doing Justice, which rocketed briefly through the last week of the Fringe Festival. In a way, the two pieces are complementary. Taubman's work, a study of the Columbine High School killings, is like the horrific, gory underside of the affluent emptiness that, in other parts of America, produced Tripp and Lewinsky. The same desire for results without effort, the same absence of civic sense and of human connection, applied to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, whose disturbed condition and armaments stockpile no one noticed, till it was too late. Taubman wrestles honorably with her material, intractable in both immensity and breadth. She replays the talk of pastors and psychologists, with survivors and parents of the dead, gun control proponents and NRA defenders. She even takes a leaf from The Laramie Project's book by putting herself into the piece, an intruder in Littleton, asking awkward questions of people who've had more media attention than they can bear.

Snatches: risking Capitol
photo: Jay Muhlin
Snatches: risking Capitol


By Laura Strausfeld
78th Street Theatre Lab
236 West 78th Street

Doing Justice
By Adina Taubman
Ontological Theater (Closed)

Taubman's limitations as an actress, which are substantial, have an oddly liberating effect on the piece, granting these tormented people the dignity of distance, where a performance with more complete identification would seem like trespass. What she leaves half-examined, though, is any sense of the life into which the horror of the killings erupted. We don't learn much about what kind of town Littleton is, or what kind of people live there, except that they're reasonably well off and love their kids, which doesn't exactly distinguish them from the rest of exurban America. We don't hear much, either, about them as individuals: what these people do, how they think, who they love other than the victims of the slaughter. Where the core of the event is so hard to comprehend, the Chekhovian details on the periphery might reveal more than one expects. But partly there's a sense that the material has engulfed Taubman, that the project of comprehending an entire town's trauma was simply too big for one person. Beth Manspeizer's direction, which features full blackouts that tend to stop and restart the action awkwardly, is only an intermittent help. And—perhaps ominously, but unsurprisingly—there's little social perspective on the material. The local pastor, a recurring figure, talks about God and the tragedy of children who haven't been taught about God's presence; others talk about parental love and parents' responsibility; gun control is brought up. Nobody talks about teaching children to live together, about dealing with differences, about society as an organism in which everyone participates. Maybe our life these days is so solipsistic that nobody thinks of these things anymore. But if that were the case, we probably wouldn't be so interested in plays that dealt with the facts in which we all, as individuals, are caught.

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