Seminole State College
By Jim Leonard
Directed by George Colangelo
Starring Stephen Lewis, Elisabeth Rosa, and Dana Gogh
Lake Mary, FL
In the Great Depression, you walk until you find work, and then maybe you luck into lunch. C.C. Showers (Lewis) walked from Kentucky up to Zion, Indiana. There he meets local mechanic Ferris Layman (Jared Cruz) who reluctantly gives him a job. C. C used to be a preacher, but he became disgusted by the hypocrisy and he gave up this lucrative career for his conscience. Layman has a 16-year-old daughter Jennie Mae (Gough) and a younger son Buddy (Rosa).Layman lost his wife when she saved Buddy from drowning, and now Buddy’s phobia about water leaving him unwashed and covers in ring worms. When C.C. gets him to swim in the river, he drowns as well. It’s sad all around, and only the town’s minor charters seem happier.
The set is spare and the acting low keyed. Lewis’s C.C. is calm and self-effacing, and bends like a reed to get along with people. He bonds with his new employer (Jared Cruz) who expresses healthy skepticism of the whole situation. A potentially creepy romance appears between C.C. and Jennie Mae, she latches on to him and opines “I’m sixteen. What are we waiting for?” Perhaps that’s creepy today, but people married earlier when education wasn’t as important as propagating the species. While the adults agonize Ms. Rosa runs around the stage as the damaged boy who sees wonder everywhere but can’t stop the itching. A hot bath would do wonders for him, but he won’t touch water. I often wondered how he stayed hydrated. What little joy apparent in Zion stems from Norman Henshaw (Kira Belgrave). She enthusiastically embraces C.C. as a gift from God, and she works to convince him to re-open the church. As leader of the choir, she overwhelms C.C. in the climatic final scene, she’s so filled with spirit she ignores Buddy’s demise.
Themes of salvation and starvation fill the story and rain fall is looked upon as divine favor. Water is both life and death here, as we know there’s a “right” amount of rain and you can die from too much or too little. There’s a calm, deliberate tone to “The Diviners,” a tone that suits the poverty and desperation of these small-town Americans adrift in the dust bowl.