Fishing for Answers

The Columbine tragedy inspired Jane Martin's Good Boys. This play about violent teenagers and their parents may be well intentioned, but it posits an unlikely situation that gets only more implausible as the 90-minute, intermission-less show wears on.

Set on a lonely pier in Florida, the play tells the story of a meeting between two fathers. Eight years have passed since the son of James Erskine (Rutherford Cravens) killed several schoolmates and then turned the gun on himself. Thomas Thurman (Manning Mpinduzi-Mott) is the father of one of the victims.

The two men confront each other, ponder the cause of the shootings and wonder what they can do about the tragedy now. Thurman is angry and wants Erskine to apologize to his church. Erskine, whose life has been ruined by lawsuits and reporters, wants only to be left alone.

In addition to its unlikely setup, the play is bogged down by some weak lines. The men spout lame poetry, saying things like, "We are prisoners in the puzzle of this," and "Living is like walking around an empty room."

To make matters worse, director Mark Ramont has put together a cast that just can't lift this script out of the mire. Mpinduzi-Mott seems particularly uncomfortable here. He stands on the stage with his arms hanging limply at his sides, leaving the usually strong Cravens in a sort of acting vacuum. Cravens tries to keep the ball in the air, but Mpinduzi-Mott's lines are often punctuated with long, inexplicable silences that suck the energy out of their exchanges.

The strongest moments come during flashback scenes focusing on the dead sons. Both David Kenner as shooter Ethan Erskine and Cameron Knight as victim Marcus Thurman bring much-needed youthful energy and rage to the stage. Kenner is especially strong -- and surprisingly sympathetic -- as a boy driven to violence by loneliness and self-loathing.

The Columbine tragedy has provoked some interesting responses (the most notable being Michael Moore's controversial screed Bowling for Columbine), but Jane Martin's Good Boys adds little to the conversation about teenagers and violence. -- Lee Williams

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