Beth Marshall Presents brought this Depression Era story set in the dust bowl to the Garden Theatre (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden). Directed by Aradhana Tiwari, opening scene set the stage full of movement as townspeople went about their daily routines. A windmill stood in stark silhouette and Buddy Layman played by CK Anderson gasped awake. Walking down a dirt road was C.C. Showers played by Michael Marinaccio. C.C was a former priest running from his fathers calling. He found work with the Layman family.
Buddy Layman was a high spirited, somewhat retarded boy who referred to himself in the third person. He had a gift for divining where there was water. He used a tree branch to search as farmers followed with eager anticipation. He had a natural gift. He could feel a storms approach on a clear day. It became clear in time that the boy feared water because he once almost drowned. His mother died in that incident and Buddy was unable to accept that she would never return. Buddy and C.C. developed a bond, a brotherly friendship. Buddy's fear of water was so severe that he would bolt at the sight of a bucket. He feared he could not breath when it rained. He never washed, and that became a problem cause he constantly had itchy feet.
The cast did an amazing job with thick accents and rural mannerisms. I was particularly taken with Marinaccio's performance. When he demonstrated his father's preaching, he became bigger than life, bombastic and powerful. What he yearned for however was a simpler life away from the priesthood. But once townsfolk discovered his past calling, they wouldn't let him be. He was asked to say grace before meals and anytime he was seen with Buddy, they thought he was saving the boys spirit and that he could cure Buddy's fear of water. This conflict between too much and too little faith is what caused a tragic oversight.
The final scene of the play was beautiful and tragic. The stage was illuminated from below with a green flickering light. C.C. had lost Buddy in the river. They moved under the water and the theatre filled with the muffled sounds of bubbles and rushing water. When they burst up for air, the light burst warmly on and the watery audio stopped. When then slipped back under, the world flickered green and muffled again. They struggled against the current. Townspeople moved in horrified slow motion.
The play ended as it began, a full circle, with townspeople going about their business and then Basil, the town farmer, and Dewey, a farm hand, gave a eulogy. The weight of their words had new meaning. Amazing Grace filled the dark theater. The Diviners will run December 15 -18th. Performances are on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm , and Sundays at 2pm.