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Cappies: A search for divine blessings at McCluer

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 18, 2012 - A boy searching for his mother, a young woman searching for love, a town searching for a preacher, and a former preacher searching for a new life captivated the audience of McCluer High School’s "The Diviners."

In rural Indiana in the 1920s, Buddy Layman, a young mentally challenged boy, searches for water to support the farms of a small community. While Buddy easily finds water, he is most driven to search for his deceased mother. Buddy bonds with the wandering C.C. Showers, a former preacher looking to begin a new life. Buddy’s father and sister, Jeannie May and Ferris, struggle to cope with Buddy’s inability to sleep, his constant itching, and irrational fear of water driven by his mother’s drowning.

"The Diviners" was written by Jim Leonard Jr., and originally performed by the Hanover College Theatre Group in 1980. It was professionally produced by the Circle Repertory Company later that same year.

Cornelius Barnes, who played Buddy Layman, took the audience’s breath away in his portrayal of a confused boy dealing with panic attacks triggered by storms or any contact with water. From start to finish, Barnes was convincing and created a deep connection with the audience. Lavalle Moore persuasively depicted the sympathetic character of C.C. Showers. Elvony Pleasant was solid in the role as Jeannie May, as she steadfastly supported her family in their struggles.

Jade Hillery, who played Norma Henshaw, was vivacious and entertaining with every line delivered. Andre Perkins provided comic relief for the audience with his wild dance as Melvin Wilder. A delightful performance was given by Melanie McCray, who played Darlene Henshaw.

The set, while simple, appropriately supported the show. A massive quilt blanketed the stage and provided a rural aura with its symbols pertaining to the show, such as a fish and a bird. The lighting also gave the show an astounding quality with its flickers for storms, and ripples for the river. The climactic scene, in which Buddy enters the river, is exquisitely executed by the cast with stunning support provided by the light and sound crew.

Just as Buddy seeks to pierce the veil between heaven and earth, the cast of "The Diviners" tackled issues of life and death in a performance dedicated to Tianna Reed, a fellow cast member who recently passed from this life less than two weeks earlier. In a moving performance, the entire cast illustrated that each life, no matter how short, is a blessing.

Katharine Potts is a student at Notre Dame High School.