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'The Diviners' At The David Schall Theater Is An Emotional Roller Coaster

Kim Morris |
October 23, 2014 | 9:29 a.m. PDT


Clay Bunker, Michael Beck and Ivy Beech in "The Diviners." (Lindsay Schnebly)
Clay Bunker, Michael Beck and Ivy Beech in "The Diviners." (Lindsay Schnebly)
If you are thinking that a Depression-era play about several farmers, an ex-preacher, and a mentally-handicapped teenager sounds boring, think again. "The Diviners," now playing at the David Schall Theater in Hollywood, is anything but. Full of charm, wit, and relatable life issues, this show will have its audience laughing and crying at the same time.  

"The Diviners" centers on the friendship between a disturbed young teenager, Buddy Layman (Michael Beck), and a conflicted preacher, C.C. Showers (Clay Bunker).  The narrative itself cleverly unfolds in reverse order, in which the audience is told the ending of the story first, then continues to witness the story’s journey for the duration of the play.  The arrival of the former preacher turns the entirety of a small rural town in Indiana into a frenzy, as aside from his devilishly good looks he brings along with him a sense of hope and adventure.  

Playwright Jim Leonard Jr., coupled with the talents of director, Mark Henderson, creates likable and relatable characters, each with a different set of issuessuch as religion, being a single father, coming-of-age, and suffering from aquaphobiathat the audience, even if they cannot completely relate to, are able to at least understand and feel towards them a degree compassion.

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The skill of the actors is such that while watching each of them, one could quite easily forget that he or she was playing a part. The audience is able to simply enjoy watching people , not actors, live their life on stage. The acting style ranges from a mode of stylized theatricality to a mode of naturalistic realism which seems to balance out in a way they creates a perfect medium.  In particular, actor David Atkinson, who plays the character of tobacco-chewing Ferris Layman, carries about him an air of naturalism that makes his performance so much fun to watch.  His comedic sternness surely causes more than one audience members to reminisce about their own fathers or grandfathers, making the entire show that much more heartwarming.  

But what really distinguishes this show is its use of lighting. Lighting designer Bill E. Kickbush is able to turn the stage into any setting needed, truly demonstrating his expertise in light technology.  He is able to use light to represent, for example, when a person is on the shore, in water, or even completely under water.  Indeed, without the skills of Kickbush, the end of the play would not at all have had its same powerful affect, where water and its intricate levels become a crucial factor in the play.  

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Together this play combines a bit if romance, a bit of comedy, and a bit of tragedy which work cohesively to produce a play that you will not be able to stop thinking about.  Be prepared to experience a roller coaster of emotions and this play truly knows how to get a reaction from its audience.

The Diviners is playing through November 23 at the David Schall Theater (1760 N. Gower St., on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood). Tickets are $25-$34. For more information visit Actors-CoOp.org

Contact Contributor Kim Morris here.

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