BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Presents a Tender, Thought Provoking Performance in THE GIVER
The Denver Center Theater Company presents THE GIVER playing now through November 18th. In a futuristic world devoid of color, emotion and differences, 12-year-old Jonas is selected to be the sole keeper of his world’s memories. But as his new found knowledge opens up a new world of pain, loss, family and love, will he dare to escape the rules that govern his society or will he choose to grasp the vibrant colors that have awakened his curiosity? A standard reading throughout middle schools in the United States, this modern-day fable will transport you to a new world, stir the imagination, and have you questioning the value of “choice”.
This is one of the most intellectual and thought-provoking plays that I have seen in quite a while and it was just captivating to watch. One theme resonated throughout the entire show and that was "tender innocence". Whether it be the innocence of youth or the innocence of death, each actor in this production gave this show the respect it deserved with a very tender and thoughtful performance. Like the book, this show lets you decide the ending of this show - Is Jonah dead; is it a coming of age story; is it a wonderful, imaginative childhood adventure; or is it all a dream? Reminiscent of Asimov with a hint of The Hunger Games, this show explores the possibility of humans being micromanaged in every aspect of their lives and humanity being reduced to a calculation. Even with such serious content, there were several humorous moments such as the assignments of the children and the outrageous rules of the Receiver. Ultimately this is an exploration of the senses, pain, and innocence; and when you realize the definition of "release" in their society, it is absolutely heartbreaking. This production, accompanied by gifted performances truly makes you appreciate you surroundings, feelings, and choices! Also - get ready for a sensory overload at that end of the show that you will not be able to take your eyes off of!
Jackson Garske was quite impressive in his Denver Center debut as Jonas. His balance between childhood and maturity was mesmerizing and that is quite an accomplishment for such a young actor. Amelia Modesitt gave a lovely performance as Lily and Gabe Koskinen-Sansone as Asher was sarcastic and funny. Isabel Sabbah was absolutely precocious as Fiona and gave an adorable performance that further pushed that theme of the innocence of children. Timothy McCracken and Diana Dresser in the roles as Father and Mother were wonderful. Their professionalism showed as they played more subtle roles since this show truly features the children. It was also interesting to watch a play where there was no great or contrasting emotion from the parents and their stoicism enhanced the awakening and emotions of Jonas. Billie McBride had a smaller role as The Chief Elder, but there was a moment when she took a pause for the audience to realize and react to the fact that Jonas was not called during the assignment that was a small,but effective touch. Philip Pleasants was very charismatic in the role of The Giver. His exploration of memories, betrayals, pain, and so many other senses were fascinating to watch and this skilled actor handled each of these with ease and care.
Christy Montour-Larson is once again at the top of her game again in her direction of this wonderful production. The thing I respect her most for is that she let the story be the star and didn't lead the audience into a certain conclusion. I also appreciated that she kept Jonah onstage throughout the majority of the show transitioning from scene to scene since it was his adventure/dream/death that we were experiencing. There was an industrial fluidity when it came to the set by designer Robert Mark Morgan. This set was quite striking and when they introduced color, it was absolutely mesmerizing. I loved the huge bookshelves that illuminated with color and the ending was a treat for the senses (thanks to some skillful lighting effects by designer Jane Spencer. I also adored the out of tune piano arrangements compliments of sound designer Tyler Nelson and musical composition by Gary Grundei. Costume designer Megan Anderson Doyle gave us 50 shades of grey simplicity, while giving each character their own personality. I must also give compliments to projection design by Charlie I. Miller that truly enhanced this sensitive and sensory show and had a lasting impact on the entire audience.
Jackson Garske as Jonas