“The Giver” – Childsplay

This review aired on KBAQ October 29, 2012


Tempe, AZ

Childsplay tries something new with its latest premiere production, “The Giver.”  It presents a more complex story requiring young audiences to closely follow the script that is based on Lois Lowry’s award-winning novel.

What surprised at the opening performance was the dialogue at the play’s conclusion between the actors and the audience.  After the cast talks about the play, they asked the capacity crowd of mostly young theatergoers several pointed questions about the obscure show that requires interpretive thinking.  They responded amazingly with many indicating a thorough understanding of the story.  The audience reaction says that young people think analytically.

Lowry’s story tells of Jonas who lives in a perfect world without war, fear, or pain.  The world’s myriad problems have been eliminated but people neither choose nor feel emotion.  When Jonas turns 12, though, he receives special training from The Giver and he learns harsh truths about the society in which he lives.  The show asks kids to question someone who is always watching making it impossible to think for ourselves.  It’s a scary thought and the young audience was quick to indicate they wouldn’t choose that existence.  They feel that people’s differences make life interesting.  Mature thoughts for the young kids stating these thoughts.

“The Giver” is less entertaining than many recent Childsplay efforts but it is impeccably produced.  Andres Alcala’s staging adds the organized autonomy to the piece that makes the bland society lusterless and listless.  The fine cast creates complicated characters from Dwayne Hartford’s The Giver that really doesn’t like to dwell on the negative but understands Jonas’ need to handle challenges including pain to fully understand the complexities of his life.  Adrian Hernandez makes Jonas an emotionally mature 12-year-old who has trouble understanding life’s negative aspects but he uses these points to comprehend the ups and downs of a real life.  Debra K. Stevens is the directed Mother while Louis Farber struggles to be a nurturing Father.  The rest of the cast plays the other challenging roles with smooth charm.

At the opening performance, some visual projections didn’t work perfectly although only the most experienced theatrical eyes could spot the awkward moments.  Recorded pictures, sound, and dialogue worked better.  The opening performance’s roughness will no doubt wane as the run progresses.  “The Giver” challenges Childsplay’s young audiences.  It continues through November 11.  For tickets, call the Childsplay box office at 480-350-2822 or order tickets online at www.childsplayaz.org.

Grade: B