You may have been required to read “The Giver” as part of your school’s curriculum in grade school. The Omaha Community Playhouse’s rendition of “The Giver,” directed by Lisa Kerekes, is a family-friendly narrative that demonstrates the beauty of human emotion.
The OCP’s adaptation of “The Giver” is based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 Newberry Award-winning novel and was adapted by Eric Coble. I recall being assigned to read the novel in elementary school and being attracted by the story of a dystopian society and a main character being the “chosen one” to bring about positive change.
“The Giver” follows twelve-year-old Jonas (Stella Clark Kaczmarek) as he grows up in a futuristic walled utopian community free of all types of pain, physical or psychological. Residents are satisfied with their current situation but have no concept of how their lives used to be or how they were taken away. Additionally, the government dictates all life choices in order to make things flawlessly equal and functional. When Jonas is bestowed the community’s highest honor, The Receiver of Memory, he can recall all of society’s memories, making him the sole person to experience love, pain, sadness, joy and suffering. This results in him discovering the truth about his ideal world and growing impatient with the community’s efforts to discourage individualism.
The 2014 film adaptation of the same name was successful in terms of visualizing the plot and casting well-known performers such as Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges. However, the film is quite unimpressive and falls short of the book’s strong premise. As a result, my expectations for the play were based on the film adaptation as opposed to the novel. To my amazement, the play gave its own distinct perspective of the storyline while adhering to the book’s plot, character development and resolution.
The wardrobe coordinator Bradley Pesarchick’s outfit selections do an excellent job of presenting the colorless world. Everyone is dressed in shades of gray and all things are colorless, portraying the dystopian world in black and white. Apart from the clothing, the most enthralling sequence in the play is when The Giver (Cork Ramer) reveals his memories of joy, pain and suffering with Jonas (Stella Clark-Kaczmarek). Each recollection was accompanied by the ideal backdrop and sound, such as snow falling from the sky when Jonas reminisces about sledding.
I admire Ramer and Clark-Kaczmarek’s realistic performances, which give both characters depth and relatability as if they were real people going through these common human emotions. Without ever disclosing his former past, Ramer’s portrayal of The Giver piques the audience’s imagination about the character’s previous existence and a life lived beyond the play’s duration.
“The Giver” will run through May 8 at the Omaha Community Playhouse’s Hawks Mainstage Theatre, with performances Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets can be purchased by calling (402) 553-0800 or visiting OmahaPlayhouse.com. On April 29, OCP will also present a sensory-friendly production of The Giver as part of this year’s Common Senses Festival. Sensory-friendly performances are intended to provide an environment that is welcoming and comfortable for individuals who have autism or other disabilities.