Colonial Players The DivinersBy Mari Davis • Jan 12th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Colonial Players Theater, Annapolis, MD
Through January 22nd
$20 General/$15 Seniors and Students
2:20 with one intermission
Reviewed January 8th, 2011
The Colonial Players’ production of The Diviners is a bittersweet story of overcoming life’s trials. It is alternately questive and quixotic, finding purpose in the simple things. The production isn’t as superb as other Colonial Players productions, but is strong at its core.
Buddy is a boy whose severe aversion to water impedes life. C.C. Showers is a preacher, experiencing a crisis of faith and roaming the country until he meets Buddy. Their friendship quickly strengthens as C.C. spends time helping the imaginative boy overcome his fears.
The Diviners is a difficult play to stage because it has over six distinct locations–a challenge accentuated by theater-in-the-round. This production was very minimalist, using actors’ movements to establish the scene. While movement is a great device when movement is the focus, the set was often detracting. The major set piece for the show was a slight rise in the floor with a fabricated log in the center which occupied about seventy percent of the main floorspace and impeded movement. It was weakly constructed, so despite actors visible attempts to walk softly, the base still split under the pressure of a footfall.
Costumes were tastefully done, creating an overall feeling of the past, without looking forced. Characters’ personalities would have been more distinctive if their hair and make-up would have had a stronger design.
Worthy of commendation are the sound designer and sound technicians. Realistic soundscapes, together with great lighting design and excellent timing, emphasized location and movement, despite muddy visuals.
The pacing is often slow. Individual actors could have stood for more specific direction in delivery and dynamic physical expression. Mackenzie Blade (Jenny Mae) failed to convey sufficient emotion through the show, often standing with her hands at her sides and a blank face. Eddie Hall (Farris Layman) had a wider range of action, but he also had a habit of standing with his back towards the audience members nearest him. The most expressive member of the ensemble was Mary C. Koster (Norma Henshaw). She threw herself into the role and portrayed the annoying girlish exuberance of her character perfectly.
Eric Schaum (Buddy) had great rapport with Ben Carr (C.C. Showers) and together they formed the strong backbone of this production. Their scenes had such authenticity that the audience was whisked away by it. Schaum’s physical expressiveness and vocal dynamics brought his character to life. Buddy had a realistic balance between needy and normal that evoked the sympathy of his audience. Carr’s performance convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt of his character’s motivations and desires.
The Colonial Players’ production of The Diviners is a little bit like a river; it doesn’t have a smooth flow–it has many slow moments, some rocky moments, and a few quick-flowing moments–but it’s a good ride. Throughout the production, there is a current moving the story along to its bittersweet conclusion. It’s not a “feel-good” production per sez, but lovers of human-interest shows should enjoy it.
Some directors select a project because it has a particular point of view or a strong statement to make. Some choose splashy costume pieces or large, showy historical plays. Some pick comedy over drama or vice versa.
I find myself seeking projects that are quieter, more intimate in scope I like plays that give me a chance to delve into character. This script gives us the story and surface details. I want to find why a character does something. An actor needs to know everything about the character he or she is creating. As a director, I must help actors delve into their characters and discover what works within the script to bring those characters to life. It is the joy of shared discovery that rives me as a director. The Diviners is an ensemble piece with 11 very real, different characters. Every role is integral to the story, no matter how small. The relationship among these characters is what moves the story along. We have had a good time getting to know these people.
Now, imagine yourself sitting on the log you see before you. Just observe the folks in Zion and appreciate them for who they are.
~ Edd Miller
- Basil Bennett: Joe Thompson
- Dewey Maples: Jay Sullivan
- Buddy Layman: Eric Schaum
- Melvin Wilder: Erik W. Alexis
- Luella Bennet: Karen Lambert
- Jennie Mae Layman: Mackenzie Blade
- C. C. Showers: Ben Carr
- Ferris Layman: Eddie Hall
- Norma Henshaw: Mary C. Koster
- Goldie Short: Brenda Mack
- Darlene Henshaw: Hannah Sturm
- Director: Edd Miller
- Stage Manager: Herb Elkin
- Producer: Tom Stuckey
- Set Design: Edd Miller
- Lead Carpenter: Ted Yablonski
- Carpenters: Lee Craft, Norm James, Jim Robinson, Dick Whaley
- Set Painting: Eddie Hall, Dianne Hood, Edd Miller, Eric Schaum, Tom Stuckey
- Lighting Design: Jennifer Parris
- Lighting Assistants: Richard Koster, Jim Parris, Novella Parris, Tom Stuckey, Martin Thompson
- Sound Design: Wes Bedsworth
- Lighting/Sound Technicians: Mike Coon, Jennifer Parris, Wes Bedsworth, Andy Serb
- Costume Design: Beth Terranova
- Costume Design Assistant: Carol Youmans
- Properties Design: Lois Banscher
- Set Design Engineering: Dick Whaley
- Rehearsal Assistant: Angie Dey
- Play Consultant: Lois Evans
- Playbill/Poster Design: Jim Gallagher
- Photography: Colburn Images
- Program Editor: Ton Stuckey
- Lobby Display: Jason Vaughan
Disclaimer: Colonial Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6051.
Mari Davis is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.