CEDAR HILLS — The Creekside Theatre Festival is here for the summer! And what a wonderful way to enjoy a show, on a nice warm grassy hill, and not a mosquito in sight. One of their productions this year, The Giver, directed by Gabe Spencer, was fantastic. And that’s not just because of the outdoor ambiance including a dried creek and well-grown trees, but because the cast was prepared to speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard over the periodic sounds of planes, motorcycles, and wind.
The Giver is adapted from the book by Lois Lowry and tells the story of a controlled community where pain doesn’t really exist. The inhabitants have very little choice and make very few mistakes, though they also have plenty of drugs to relieve their senses. No colors, music, war, poverty, and absolutely no disobeying of rules, keeps this community “safe.” The one person allowed to feel every sensation is called “The Receiver of Memories” or The Giver, and resides alone but will be consulted in times of need for advice. The rest of the residents work and play contentedly, not really knowing the value of their lives. Twelve-year-old Jonas is chosen to become the new Receiver, and as he gains knowledge he realizes things must change and ends upsetting the status quo.
I enjoyed how Spencer created the neutral gray tones of the set and costumes to show how bland the community was. He also had the personalities seem bland until The Giver (played by Chris Hults) came onstage. He was energetic, fun, and real. It was such an amazing contrast that emphasized the point of the show: that it’s better to experience all of life than to sacrifice most of it to be pain free. I also liked the use of lighting to show memories being received and felt.
Jonas was played by Barak Davis, who made very good use of his breath in the intense moments of the show. I really felt afraid for him when he experienced the pain of a broken leg, and when he saw the memory of war. His anger at finding out the “releasing” of the elderly and twin babies meant killing them was powerful and effectively built up the energy toward the next decision of leaving the community.
Ella Brammer (playing Lily) was the youngest in a cast that featured several young actors who impressed me with their focus and projecting. I loved the moments when Lily paced the stage in front of the family, complaining about not being old enough for the fun stuff, or getting excited about the possibility of having a twin somewhere in “elsewhere.” Her Father (played by Bradley Southard) and Mother (played by Alice Johnson) also made it very easy to enter the world of the show. They talked about their lives and their children so naturally and kindly that I almost thought that their way of life was a good idea. Southard especially was effective at acting childlike in scenes that to me were so horrible, like when he is supposed to “release” a twin baby. The way he treats the child is like it’s going on a trip, yet the audience sees him kill it. It was creepy, but in an effective acting way.
Creekside is a wonderful summer festival to enjoy, and The Giver is a great show to support, especially with all the talent that has gone into this show. The play itself is an interesting and powerful story and a worthy addition to your summer theatre schedule.
Donate to Utah Theatre Bloggers Association today and help support theatre criticism in Utah. Our staff work hard to be an independent voice in our arts community. Currently, our goal is to pay our reviewers and editors. UTBA is a non-profit organization, and your donation is fully tax deductible.