As a 5th grader, many years ago, this writer was asked to read a little book called “The Giver” for a class reading assignment. The Giver introduces the viewers to a seemingly utopian society through the eyes of twelve-year-old Jonas. Things are orderly and simple. Each person has a distinct place in society and clear-cut duties. The rules are simple, and everyone obeys. But Jonas unfolds the community before our eyes, the vision becomes flatter, starker, and dystopian. When Jonas turns twelve, he gets his assignment. He is to become the Receiver of Memory. We learn that all memories of anything OTHER or ELSE belongs solely to the Receiver of Memory. Now the former Receiver becomes The Giver and starts handing over memories to Jonas, one by one. Jonas learns of snow and sun and love.
Lowry paints the outlines of this world by describing the structure, how things work. But that is only the first half. Then she fills it in not by showing what is there, but what is not. The community is vivid in its emptiness, in its lack of things. And by doing so Lowry points out the most important parts of humanity. She shows us the things that make life truly meaningful and enjoyable, but she doesn’t beat us over the head with it.
The Giver, now plays at the Ricketson theatre at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. The overall premise of the show is the same; however, in its transition The Giver loses some of it’s effect. Director, Christy Montour-Larson and her production team (Robert Mark Morgan, Meghan Anderson Doyle, Jane Spencer) do a good job of creating the stark world in which Jonas resides without giving away too much right out of the gate.
For those familiar with the story, the actors do a remarkable job telling the story. Philip Pleasants who plays The Giver, does a particularly good job. He is everything you’d imagine when reading the book. Also, Diana Dresser (Mother) and Timothy McCracken (Father) are wonderful in their respective roles. Jackson Garske, has the difficult task of playing Jonas, but he is up for the challenge delivering a performance that feels authentic. His track of emotions comes across clear and motivated, which is critical for his character. Each step in his journey makes sense to the audience.
The Giver, now through November 18
The Ricketson Theatre | Denver Center for the Performing Arts