Adversity naturally leads to the search for answers. What the questions are aren't always certain, but the search becomes part of the journey to recovery.
In Jim Leonard Jr.'s The Diviners, currently produced by L.I.P Service at Arts Fifth Avenue, the people of the fictional, depression era Zion, Indiana, are looking for answers.
Buddy Layman (Zach Levya) is a developmentally challenged boy who due to a childhood trauma has an innate ability to sense water, whether it be predicting storms or hunting wells, and yet fears it more than anything in the world. C.C. Showers (Jason Levya), is a mysterious traveler that happens upon Zion, and specifically, Buddy. The two quickly strike up a friendship, to the surprise of many including Buddy's sister Jennie May (Angela Horn) and father Ferris (David Plybon).
C.C. becomes a mentor to Buddy, helping him make great progress towards finally bathing and curing the ringworm infecting his body. In turn, Buddy serves as a new inspiration for C.C. who, as it turns out, is a former preacher who has left the clergy under mysterious circumstances.
While the story between C.C. and Buddy shows the positive side of the journey, the townspeople's reaction to finding out C.C.'s past represents the negative side. In their time of crisis, the safe confines of the church are a welcoming draw to people and some of the townspeople attempt to organize a revival.
C.C.'s crisis of faith makes him naturally resistant to this and he attempts to stay focused on his relationship with Buddy.
Eventually, what would otherwise just be a slice-of-life type play turns into a tragedy when the external influences and pressures of others cause something to terrible to happen.
The father/son combo of Jason and Zach Levya lead a dynamic cast and engaging cast. Zach Levya specifically impresses as Buddy. Anytime there's a developmentally challenged character in a play there's a risk of pushing the characterization into the cartoonish. It's very easy to overact it. Zach succeeds by finding consistency in the character. It never escalates but stays true and constant, heightening the believability.
Jason Levya is a gathering storm. Sweet and personable at the outset but the pain lingering just beneath the surface waiting to explode is always obvious. It's intense in all the right ways.
Horn is precocious. A matriarch too young but doing the best she can to help out her father. And yet, C.C. gives her the opportunity to live out a little adolescence. And she balances the maturity with the maturation very well.
But those are just the highlights of a cast that acquits itself quite well. Director Bill Sizemore has assembled a strong group and an excellent production.
And that extends to the crew as well. Scenic Designer Lilly Stapp Courtney created a simple yet versatile set for the multi-location piece. Branson White's sound and light design, particularly in the play's climax are engrossing. And finally, James Lash provides the soundtrack with his 12 string guitar.
There are plenty of parallels between The Diviners and today's world. The country has been going through a tough time, looking for answers. And people seem to be clinging to their faith more than ever. So the poignancy of such a piece and its focus on trying to find the bright moments among the muck and mire is timely and well worth paying attention to.
Because the answers, like the water, are different for everyone and what may be good for one may not be for another. So really, there isn't just one answer. Everyone has to find their own way to the water. And this production does just that.