The Diviners Review

Cecily Hardie, Writer

For the past semester, the stagecraft and theater kids have been working on putting on the new school play, ‘The Diviners.’ Written by Indiana playwright Jim Leonard Jr., the play is an emotional tale of a boy and his relationship with water. The show ran from Feb. 27 to Feb. 29 at the Carl and Glessie Young Community Auditorium. It’s worth attending solely for the purpose of supporting the students and faculty members who have worked to put the show together, but the alluring premise and excellent execution of the acting and special effects should be enough to compel you to attend.

Buddy Layman (Levi Legan) is a mentally challenged 14-year-old boy living in Zion, Indiana during the Great Depression. He is afflicted with ringworm and a crippling fear of water, which gives him the ability to sense when it’s going to rain and, even more impressively, where the closest body or source of water is. When ex-preacher C.C. Showers (Elijah Wolfard) shows up on the Layman’s front step searching for a job, he and Buddy immediately strike up the friendship that drives the play. Showers develops a fondness for little Buddy which inevitably leads to the child’s demise.

The play is heavy with the dark themes of death, grief, and failed parenting. An incident in Buddy’s childhood led to his mother’s death by drowning and his fear of water. Mrs. Layman left her son and daughter to her husband Ferris (Hudson Aikins), who is clearly unequipped and unprepared for the challenge of fatherhood. When confronted with the problem of his dirty son and his itchy ringworm, Ferris rejects the town doctor’s advice of giving the boy a bath because of the resistance he knows he will have to deal with. At first, it is easy to despise the character for his incompetence and inability to properly raise his children. However, later in the play when Ferris eventually agrees to make Buddy take a bath and encounters the expected resistance, he falls to the ground with his head in his hands as his son screams for his mother. The scene is tragic and heartbreaking, and immediately his character can be understood and pitied. It shows that the young, single father still grieves for his late wife, though not as openly as his distraught son who seems to have no comprehension of death.

One spectacular part of the play is the fantastic characters that are portrayed within, of which Ferris Layman is only one. Characters are seen to have glaring faults, like C.C. Showers’ tunnel vision on what the townsfolk think of him, or Norma Henshaw’s (Holly Smith) devote and sometimes disabling faith in Christianity. However most, if not all, of these characters are shown to be redeemable and human. Showers obviously cares very much for Buddy, and Ms. Henshaw is excited for the arrival of the preacher because she believes he can better her town and fellow townsfolk.

Of course, the characters would not have been so convincing and real if they were not played by such spectacular actors and actresses. Darlene Henshaw, who was a largely unnecessary character in the prospect of the plot, was made funny and friendly by Sophia Edwards. Walter Totten portrayed farmhand Dewey Maples as a timid and nervous character who the audience couldn’t help but root for. Almost every single character within the play had at least one line to chuckle at, which relieved the tension of the plot a little.

Speaking of plot, this two hour long play was full of various scenes that held no use to it. An admittedly funny scene where Luella Bennett (Krenna Freeman) relayed the details of preacher Showers helping her up after a bicycle crash to Goldie Short (Leah Hyde) and Mrs. Henshaw was probably meant to show that the women of the town are depending on Showers to help them out, but that can already be inferred by the ladies’ prior behavior towards him, so the scene is fairly unnecessary.

Another weak point I saw in the play was the music choice. I wish they had live music by students instead of recordings, and I feel like they could have chosen better music than Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.’

Every show has a fault, whether it’s a weak scene or iffy acting. ‘The Diviners’ is chock-full of talent and effort, and the students and faculty that worked on the play should be happy with what they have created, and never lose their pride.