Theater review | thru aug. 3

The concept behind the story of The Diviners was more inspired than its finished product. Set in Southern Indiana during the Depression, it is about a boy, 14-year-old Buddy, who almost drowned at the age of 4 or 5. His mother did drown - presumably trying to save him. Since then, Buddy, who is a bit slow, has had a shrieking fear of any kind of water, and refuses to bathe. Interestingly, he is a diviner - a person who can find water with a diving rod - and can foresee the weather, most notably storms. Into his life comes C.C. Showers, an ex-preacher looking for work. The small town has been without a preacher for 10 years, and its matriarchs are determined that C.C. should be their spiritual leader. C.C. and Buddy become fast friends, and C.C. gradually helps Buddy overcome his fears.

Frank Kratoska and Brandi Collins in Wayne Township Community Theatre"s "The Diviners"

This sounds like the basis of an interesting story. However, the rambling, repetitive dialogue never goes beyond the surface of the issues, and never delves into C.C."s rejection of the calling to preach, except to say that he isn"t very good at it. Why isn"t he good at it? Just because he "thinks too much"? Why doesn"t his interaction with Buddy produce some kind of inner revelation that creates a transformation? And why is Buddy"s gift of divination referred to in the opening scene, then barely touched on again, other than when he lets the town know that "rain is a"comin"""? So much more could have been explored.

The script, penned by former Hoosier Jim Leonard Jr., accurately mimics rural Indiana life; it verbally ambles about like a senior citizen with a captive audience of heat-drenched relatives. If you are a fan of Our Town, my guess is that you would enjoy The Diviners.

That said, the Wayne Township Community Theatre folks, a "new kid on the block," made the most of what they were given. The assembled cast and producer/director Gus Pearcy enlivened the script here and there, making the characters as down-home real as possible - and funny, to boot. Unfortunately, they sacrificed clarity for the Southern Indiana drawl. This dialect, combined with over-miked actors, made a lot of the dialogue impenetrable. Entire sections were muffled to the point of complete incoherence. More work on diction, combined with an adjustment to the sound system, would help the audience follow the action.

The two actors who stood out in the cast were Brandi Collins as Buddy"s 16-year-old, petulant yet protective sister Jennie May and Frank Kratoska as C.C., who created a well-drawn character - a searcher trying to do the right thing.

Visually, the show was lovely. Sound effects and lighting were very effective, thanks to Clark Nylin, and Jennie May had darling little frocks reminiscent of the period, courtesy of Beth DeHoff and the cast.

The Diviners continues through Aug. 3 at Ben Davis High School. Call 390-0363 for tickets, $10 adults and $7 for students.

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