There is a ceremony that will be held when you and your friends turn 12. It’s called, aptly enough, “The Ceremony of Twelves” and at this ceremony you will be given a work assignment. This will be your job until you’re old. Unless of course you don’t do your job well, or perhaps you might not fit in… then you will be released. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Childsplay’s production of Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” delivers from the moment you enter the theatre, until long after you’ve driven home. This one will stick with you, I promise. You begin in the lobby by filling out an Assignment Survey. By answering 4 questions you will find out what your work assignment will be. I was a Teacher of 3’s. My son, Nick, who’s 13 (only a year late for his Ceremony) was given Path Maintenance Crew and his friend, Jax, was a Director of Recreation. We are then asked how we “feel” about this and on a separate piece of paper you choose from Relieved, Apprehensive, Proud or Sad. That’s it. You then stick your “feelings” answer on a board with everyone else’s “feelings.” Feelings are important in this play. The Caregivers often ask the children “how they feel” but that’s ironic, because they live in the land of “sameness.” They feel like everybody else feels. Fine. Meanwhile, Jonas’s “family” takes in a baby named #36 and the Dad finds out that if it is a good baby then it will be given the name of Gabriel, and if it continues to cry, as it’s been doing, then it will have to be released. There’s that word again, “released.” But what exactly does “released” mean?
The set, costumes, apples… are gray. Everything is gray for everyone, except for Jonas who’s been catching glimpses of color lately. So when he receives the work assignment of “Receiver of Memories” he doesn’t quite realize how upside down his life will become. From this time on, Jonas meets with The Giver as he receives the many memories that people aren’t “allowed” to experience any more. But then, it’s for their own good. No pain, no hunger, no anger… but with this comes, no joy, no colors… no snow. Even all flesh is the same color. They gave up colors when they gave up sunshine.
If everything’s the same then there’s no choices. It’s because the Committee of Elders care so much about the people that everyone is now protected from making choices. There’s always a good chance that if left to your own device, you might make the “wrong choice,” and that would be bad.
One person that didn’t make a wrong choice is Andrés Alcala when casting, “The Giver.” Adrian Hernandez is spot on with his performance of Jonas. As he feels each “memory” we “feel” for him. There’s a lot of “feeling” going on in this play. Louis Farber and Debra K. Stevens are the perfect (and eerie) Mom and Dad of the future. Michelle Cuneen is the adorable little sister, Lily, who has a lot of great questions but no one to answer them for her. Dwayne Hartford is engrossing as The Giver. The audience experiences the memories that he’s passing on to Jonas as Jonas receives them and the pain associated with it. Only ours isn’t actual pain. Rounding out the cast is Cullen Law and Kaleena Newman as Jonas’s fellow Twelves. They make you wonder if it’s really so bad to be part of the “sameness.” They get to ride gray bikes, for gosh sakes! And isn’t gray the new black?
The backdrop is a series of large, many shaped video screens, always on and always in sync with the action on stage. It’s only when Jonas sees colors, that we, the audience, are privy to just what it might be like to see red for the first time.
The very talented, Andrés Alcala, director of “The Giver” has stayed true to his word. The audience will have more than enough to talk about at the dinner table. Plus the audience is sent home with a “For the Ride Home” pamphlet with discussion prompts and ideas that will get your creativity juices flowing. “The Giver” will stick with you AND because we still can make our own choices, I would suggest that you choose to come see this great play.