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.
Philip Pleasants (The Giver) and Jackson Garske (Jonas) in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s production of The Giver.
Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen
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.
Jackson Garske (Jonas) and Philip Pleasants (The Giver) in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s production of The Giver.
Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen
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.
From left to right: Gabe Koskinen-Sansone (Asher), Jackson Garske (Jonas) and Isabel Sabbah (Fiona) in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s production of The Giver.
Photo Credit: Vicki Kerr
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
Noah Lee Jordan is an Arts & Culture Writer for 303 magazine. Follow him on twitter @noahjordan or just look for him taking the stage in the local theatre community.
In the "ideal" world into which Jonas was born, everybody has sensibly agreed that well-matched married couples will raise exactly two offspring, one boy and one girl. These children's adolescent sexual impulses will be stifled with specially prescribed drugs; at age 12 they will receive an appropriate career assignment, sensibly chosen by the community's Elders. This is a world in which the old live in group homes and are "released"--to great celebration--at the proper time; the few infants who do not develop according to schedule are also "released," but with no fanfare. Lowry's development of this civilization is so deft that her readers, like the community's citizens, will be easily seduced by the chimera of this ordered, pain-free society. Until the time that Jonah begins training for his job assignment--the rigorous and prestigious position of Receiver of Memory--he, too, is a complacent model citizen. But as his near-mystical training progresses, and he is weighed down and enriched with society's collective memories of a world as stimulating as it was flawed, Jonas grows increasingly aware of the hypocrisy that rules his world. With a storyline that hints at Christian allegory and an eerie futuristic setting, this intriguing novel calls to mind John Christopher's Tripods trilogy and Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl. Lowry is once again in top form--raising many questions while answering few, and unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers. Ages 12-14.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.