“The Diviners,” a play by Jim Leonard, Jr., opened April 5 at the Contemporary Theater of Dallas.
The story takes place in the fictional town of Zion, Indiana during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
It begins and ends with elegies spoken by two of the townspeople describing what happened the day of Buddy's final tragedy.
Buddy Layman, (played by Brandon Kinard) is now 17 years old. He nearly drowned in the river when he was a small boy. The accident did take the life of his mother, who was trying to save him — leaving Buddy not only motherless but mentally challenged and guilt ridden, as such a tragedy often does.
Buddy is childlike, uncontrollable and deathly afraid of water, but he has a sweet spirit and he is loved by his father Ferris Layman (played by Greg Holt), his sister Jennie Mae Layman (played by Zoe Kerr) and the townsfolk of Zion.
Buddy’s fear of water has resulted in his ability to find water with a divining rod, a tremendous gift to the drought-besieged farm community where he lives.
When a disillusioned preacher from Kentucky, C. C. Showers, (played by Daylon Walton) comes to town looking for work, Buddy’s father gives him a job in his garage. A strong bond develops between Buddy and the preacher precipitating a chain of events; sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic.
I had the opportunity to see the play Friday night with my two sisters (one is an actress) and two of my friends, a retired college drama professor and a current college drama teacher.
I would say that put me in the company of the “theater circle.”
I thought the play was beautiful and moving and I enjoyed every scene and sound, from the storyline to the acting to the old-time hymns that were sung acapella throughout the play.
In addition to sharing my thoughts about the play, I asked for input from those who accompanied me to the performance.
“I was mesmerized by Luella’s (played by Marianne Galloway) account of the preacher lifting her off the road after her bike accident. I wanted to get even closer to the stage to hear that story,” my sister, Terry Gwynne, said. (We were already on the front row.)
Gwynne also felt the final scene was well crafted. “The commotion on the shore (available only when the preacher came out of the water for a breath) put the audience right under the water with him,” she said.
Michael Raines, teacher of drama and English at Eastfield Community College referred to experiencing “The Diviners” as a blessing itself. He was moved by the irony of the preacher who had lost his faith and the ‘divining boy’ and how they complemented one another.
Ed DeLatte, retired professor of drama at The University of North Texas and current director of “Westside Players” said the “The Diviners” develops our consciousness. “In a sense, we are all diviners,” he said.
“This play helps us understand the true purpose in life. It is about good intentioned people who are flawed — like all of us,” DeLatte said.
“Turn the earth to the earth like a child to his mother. And we think a the boy and we call it a blessin’. We turn to each other and we call it a blessin’.”~from “The Diviners.”
The Contemporary Theater of Dallas is located in an old church at 5601 Sears St. Being inside the theater is interesting on its own. Combine that with award-winning entertainment and you have a great theater experience.
“The Diviners,” directed by René Moreno will run through April 27. For ticket and performance information contact the theater at 214-828-0094, or purchase online.