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Diviners succeeds on young lead's skill
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Diviners succeeds on young lead's skill

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

The Diviners
November 20 and 21
Youngstown Cultural Arts Center


The Diviners, a play by Jim Leonard, Jr., is billed as "a powerful, poignant, and deeply human play." These words themselves are highly charged, yet the play is definitely along the lines of subtle drama. The Diviners plays on a simplistic stage and doesn't rely on high-tech gimmicks. It is very reminiscent of Our Town, and like Wilder's classic, the show's power is based on strong writing and very good performances.

The play is set during the Great Depression in a forsaken town in Indiana, and revolves around a young boy named Buddy Layman (played brilliantly by Paul Teegarden-Nash). Buddy is a gifted boy in many ways, though he's a little slow and constantly speaks of himself in the third person. Due to an accident where his mother drowned, he is left with the ability to predict the weather, divine hidden underground wells, and a terrible fear of water, including rain. A drifting handyman and former preacher, CC Showers, finds work with the Layman family and befriends the young boy. He makes progress with Buddy until misunderstandings pile on top of each other and innocence is lost.

The drifter, played by Kenny Alton, is so charming that the townspeople let down their guard, and the audience does along with them. It's this homespun simplicity that allows the character to become friends with the wild boy. Jennie May, Buddy's sister, is played by Annelih Holganza, and her emotions flow easily as we see the bonding and care she gives to her special younger brother. Norma Henshaw and her niece Darlene play protagonists in two different ways. Norma (played by Mary Springer) is a religious woman seeking divinity in a man who wants to leave it behind. Darlene (Andi Donnelly) is a young girl wrestling with the frustrations between the limits in a small town and burgeoning puberty.

It is the impressive work of 16-year-old Paul Teegarden-Nash as Buddy Layman that stands out. His performance evokes not pity, but a saddened sympathy from the audience. Buddy's simplicity is his charm, and we feel his fear whenever water is mentioned. At the climax of the show, an underwater scene is played (and staged) so well, he deserved the strong applause he received from the crowd.

The Diviners is presented by Twelfth Night Productions and is being performed at West Seattle's Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW). The small theater serves as the perfect venue for a show that needs no frills. Twelfth Night Productions is a non-profit arts organization that performs four shows a year with at least one musical, and the annual Amahl and the Night Visitors is now in its 13th year. For more information visit http://www.twelfthnightproductions.org.

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