“The Diviners” at the Shawnee Theatre in Bloomfield, directed by Terrence Monte, is a play worth doing in a production worth seeing.
James Leonard, Jr.’s work is a richly thoughtful, touching and funny show set around the mythical small Indiana town of Zion during the Herbert Hoover years. The story begins as C.C. Showers played by Mike Price walks onto the stage. He’s one of the depression’s wandering men, out walking the road and living by working for food and a place to sleep. This Kentucky man was born into a line of successful preachers. He’s lost his calling, but not his core of sensitive caring honesty.
C.C. meets and is taken in by the Layman family. There’s the solid garage owning father Ferris, Alan Shepherd; the lovely daughter Jennie Mae, Lauren Morris, and the charmingly winsome, but frustrating idiot savant son, Buddy, Michael Detmer. As a baby, Buddy was nearly drowned in an accident that killed his mother. Since then, he has a dreadful fear of water, but he’s been gifted with the ability to witch wells and to divine weather.
The town takes an interest in C.C.. Two of the leading ladies, played by Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe and Lisa Ermel have spiritual concerns. They are just aching to have C.C. return to the ministry and rebuild the town’s church for baptizing, burying and rooting out sin. A third, played by Amy Thomason, has a more commercial interest. She observes that when the church was active her restaurant was always full on Sundays.
Meanwhile, in the town of Zion there is plenty of other activity. Leading farmer Basil Bennett, Michael Carey, focused on diatribes about the encroachment of technology. The farmer did buy a tractor, but prefers to use animals. He says that he kept the tractor around because his wife liked the color. Two of his laborers, a couple of lay about young men, try to get by with as little work as possible. There’s Melvin, Steve White, who boasts that he benefited from the U.S. Army because of going through basic training twice. And there’s his equally daft buddy, Dewey, played by Nick Foreman. Their clumsy duo courting of the local girl, Darlene, Shelley Cooper, was quite a treat.
C.C.’s bond with the idiot Buddy grows as the play develops and C.C. with Jennie Mae works to heal Buddy’s phobic fear of water. The gripping ending of “The Diviners” brings all the concerns of the community, its individual members and the inner forces driving C.C. into a single complexly powerful, memorable epiphany.
Listen to an interview with actor Mike Price.