Fans of the book “The Giver” will find much to like about IRT’s production of the same name. Because the play focuses less on the lead character, Jonas, as the newly appointed receiver of memories, it manages to maintain a faster pace and keep the audience’s interest, even for those unfamiliar with the book.
“The Giver” is set in a future where everyone is the same – there is no discord, no uncertainty, and no pain. Sameness is valued above all else. No one has to make choices, but no one can see color, hear music or feel love, either.
IRT does an exemplary job of creating this minimalist world. The set is essentially limited to a bookcase, table and five chairs, which are used in a variety of ways as needed. The actors, too, serve as props, helping to transform a table into a sled or using their arms to simulate snowfall.
Everything is cast in shades of gray to illustrate a world without color, including the actors’ clothing and all components of the set. The memory scenes stand out against this bleak world. As 12-year-old Jonas (Garrett McKenna) receives memories of the community’s past from the Giver (Frederick Marshall), color is cleverly introduced into the set. For example, the gray bookcase gradually turns more colorful as Jonas receives memories of a formerly colorful world.
Auditory devices propel the story as well. In parts, a disembodied voice allows viewers to visualize for themselves actions that are merely hinted at on stage.
But the child actors are the driving force of the production, with the adults primarily in supporting roles. Garrett, in particular, does an excellent job of portraying Jonas. As the story starts, all characters, including Jonas, are very flat and emotionless (as one would expect in a world without highs and lows). Garrett believably shows Jonas transforming as he gains memories from the Giver, who becomes progressively weaker.
Some of the subject matter is unsuitable for younger children. Euthanasia is addressed, and the production, though just an hour, 20 minutes, has no intermission, which could make younger children fidgety. But youth in grades 5 and up will be able to understand and appreciate the play, especially if they have read the book. Adults, too, will enjoy it -- though the story is considered “young adult,” it is complex and engrossing.
Readers of Lois Lowry’s book will be satisfied with this production. The play doesn’t stray from the original story, and nothing important is left out. Though you learn a lot less about Jonas’ thoughts, enough is conveyed through his dialogue with other characters that you don’t lose any vital information.
In fact, readers who were dissatisfied with the vagueness of the book’s ending will find more closure with the play’s ending.
WHAT: “The Giver,” a 90-minute play based on the children’s book of the same name by Lois Lowry.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Fridays and 3 and 6 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 21.
WHERE: Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Upper Stage, 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.
COST: $29 to $39 for adults; $15 for ages 18 and under and students.
INFORMATION: (317) 635-5252 or visti the IRT website.
Copyright 2009 Y-Press