San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Play Highlights Violence in Schools

Set in an average high school in the United States but sending a message against school violence across all borders, the play “¡Bang, Bang! Estás Muerto” (“Bang, Bang! You’re Dead”) is now on stage at the CostaRican-NorthAmericanCulturalCenter’s Eugene O’Neill Theater in Barrio Dent, just east of downtown San José.

Originally written in English by U.S. playwright William Mastrosimone, the play premiered in the United States in 1999 and was inspired by a string of school shootings that happened there in the late 1990s. This production, which is in Spanish, is being staged by Teatro Universitario of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and is directed by María Bonilla.

Josh (played by Abelardo Vladich Barrilla) is a teenager suffering from frustration  at home and school, who one day decides to shoot his parents and five of his fellow students. The entire play takes place in Josh’s jail cell, where he is haunted by the spirits of the dead demanding to know why he killed them.

The souls and characters in Josh’s mind, performed by an energetic and passionate cast, play out the troubling events in Josh’s life that lead up to the shooting and create other scenes, such as a mock trial, to show the lifelong consequences of his decision and its effects on an entire community.

In the opening of this version of the play, real video footage from the ColumbineHigh School massacre is incorporated, as are some short musical scenes.Actors move on and off the stage at various points in the play, bringing elements of the production straight to the audience.

The cast includes Leonardo Torres (Matt), Sebastián Méndez (Jessie), Bernardo Mena (Michael), Alice García (Kattie) and Natalia Arias (Emily).

Bonilla said school violence is not just a problem in the United States, but in Costa Rica as well. Though guns are illegal here, she said people still find other weapons and means for acting out violently.

Specially arranged performances will be held at public and private schools in June, July and August, and the cultural center will promote forums between students, advisers and parents on the issue of school violence and its causes.

Because of the sensitive nature of the play, attendees must be at least 14 years old. Remaining performances are tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets cost ¢2,000 (about $4). For reservations, call the theater at 207-7554. For information on arranging a performance at a school, call 232-4991 or 380-5237.


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