An Oregon Children's Theatre (OCT) Original directed by Matthew B. Zrebski at the Winningstad Theatre in Portland, Ore. There have been over 250 productions of this play produced since OCT premiered it in 2006. Winner of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) Distinguished Play Award.
|Unfortunately these pre-production |
photos do not well represent the
show's actual look and feel.
From the acclaimed Newbery Award-winning author, Lois Lowry, The Giver returns to Oregon Children’s Theatre eight years after its world premiere on their stage. And while a great and provocative book and play, I question its validity for children, at least those under twelve years of age.
Frankly, it is adult material. I say that not in a prudish or moralistic sense, but as a parent who sees the material as too "hard." This is a play that deals with difficult cultural and social issues--the right to life (and the right to die) of the young and infirm, the horrors of death and destruction, what life could mean without those things or even a life with out passion and love. Because if you take away one you also take the other. It's hard to explain. I suggest reading the book (it's a small book packing a big whollup) before you decide to subject your children.
|Tristan Comella as Jonas, The Receiver.|
However, I'm am not quite happy with the character direction. The characters, for the most part, came off flat and unmoving. I suspect this was the director's artistic "choice" for communicating the feeling (or lack there of) of "sameness" since it was almost universal. I make this observation in comparison to the vibrant energy of other OCT productions.
I do note that there is a shift in the emotiveness of Jonas as he begins to receive the memories. The Giver was the only character who had passion from the get-go. So, you see what I'm thinking, no? I'm not saying it was a wrong choice, I'm just saying, as a director myself (having read the book and not seen that), I'm not sure I would have interpreted the work that way.
And, since the show is presented as Children's Theater, I think a lighter, funner feel might be a better contrast against the underbelly of what's at work behind the seemingly ideal life lived on the surface. I don't know, either way it's likely to come off as a downer in the end anyway (depending on how you interpret it, I suppose). I do think adults will get even more out of the story than kids--even teens. This is a valuable look at society, governmental control and personal choice that can only truly be appreciated by those who have been living for a while.
The cast was good, don't get me wrong there. Tristan Comella, in the lead as Jonas, showed a sincere range of emotion. I especially liked Andres Alcala as The Giver; he gave a truly passionate and convincing performance.
But it was fifth-grader Steele Clevenger who threatened to steal the show. Her portrayal as the naive and oblivious Lily, was spot on, always a darling and dear. If you go watch her; her acting seems intuitive.
I should also note the downplay of the character Rosemary in this adaption. I was disappointed that it was reduced to a walk-on part (literally). I feel sorry for Zoe Stadler, who played the part, with her experience she deserved more (but then, as they say: "there are no small parts...").
|The Giver imparts a memory to Jonas, The Receiver.|
"The Giver" is playing now through May 18, Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Sign Interpreted: Saturday, May 3 at 2 p.m. OCT recommends the play for ages 9 and up. I recommend twelve and older.
Get $10 teen tickets!
Based on the awesome, but disturbing, Newbery Award winning novel by Lois Lowry. Adapted by Eric Coble. Originally commissioned by Oregon Children’s Theatre, March 2006.
By Gregory E. Zschomler
Photos, provided, by Owen Carey
For another perspective by Dennis Sparks click here.
The movie comes out this August and stars Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes, Jeff Bridges. Alexander Skarsgard, and Brenton Thwaites as Jonas.