TEEN AMBASSADOR:ELISE MELLO | MARCH 2, 2017
I’m not going to lie, hearing that there was a stage adaption of the Giver coming to the Zeiterion made my slump over in dismay and audibly release a groan of exasperation. Now don’t get me wrong, I thought The Giver by Lois Lowry was a fantastic novel that provoked thought about society and the complex concept of utopia from all readers alike that will always hold a special place in my bibliophilic heart. However, after seeing the tragically mediocre film adaption of the Newberry-winning story that was filled with generic actors who were forgotten within minutes and a script that did not do Lowry justice, I was mentally prepared very an equally disappointing stage production. Luckily, as soon as the starring actor stepped onto the stage and began saying her opening soliloquy I was pleasantly astounded by how beautifully crafted the American Place Theatre’s production truly was.
Every person who has ever read The Giver recalls the many intricate characters and the moral complications they encountered as the plot developed, so one can imagine just how difficult it would be for a whole cast of actors to convey such emotionally exhausting characters such as the Giver or Jonas. This production, on the other hand, took it an entire step further by having the entire play being put on by a single actor who switched from a sobbing Jonas to a stern father within an instant. Despite my concerns of being confused as to which character was speaking or being unable to actually maintain focus on the show (seeing as I had never watched a production performed by a singular person playing every single role before), the immensely skilled actress astounded me with her ability to so effortlessly bring the tale to life with her raw talent. Each line kept me on the edge of my seat, and the hour-long show left me wanting so much more.
Another unique route that this production took was their backdrops and props, or lack thereof. As opposed to having an abundance of elaborately painted backdrops depicting Jonas’s world, this company took a very minimalistic approach where scenery was not included and the only prop was a single stool. I’ll admit that at first glance it seemed a bit obscure to me that a telling of such a complicated story was going to take place without any visual aids, but the nonexistent props actually enhanced the show. Instead of relying on what set designers envisioned this monochromatic-dystopian world to look like, audience members instead were forced to delve into the story and conjure up with their imagination the setting. In turn, this also proved the point that a magnificent show doesn’t need extravagant sets and frivolous props to keep an audience’s attention, and that a beautifully simple story is all you need for a night to remember.
All in all, I would gladly see this show again and again due to the ambitious story it chose to take on and the creative risks used to execute it that definitely paid off. Complete with just one actor who was worthy of an infinite number of awards and a simplistic set that left everything to the imagination, this show was less of a “way to decompress and relax” and more of a thought-provoking work of art that had everyone’s mind wrapped in circles over the intense themes that have and always will be extremely prevalent to modern-day society.