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Winner of the 1979 American College Theater Festival, "The Diviners" tells the story of a brain-damaged 14-year-old's friendship with a 30-year-old preacher turned itinerant farm worker in a small Indiana town in the early 1930s.

It sounds bleak, reflecting the hard reality of the Great Depression, and in the Moonlight Troupers production at Anne Arundel Community College, it is bleak, with a set and lighting that conveys the grim mood and ominous threats of drowning built into the plot.

At the same time, the innocence of the period is evoked by focusing on prudish concern for dress and speech and a strong reliance on religion.

Buddy Layman, the 14-year-old, is a diviner whose mother drowned in an attempt to save him when he was younger. Now he is called upon to locate water on neighbors' farms. The play is replete with water symbolism, as Buddy struggles with the guilt and fear left by his mother's drowning and his gift for finding water.

Shane Logue is superb in the role, moving trancelike with his divining rod, referring to himself continually in the third person and adopting strange speech patterns with words like "anklers" for ankles.

Brock Ballard as C. C. Showers matches Logue's performance. He conveys the anger and conflict that come with abandoning his preaching career, and he shows extreme sensitivity toward Buddy. When he lapses into his former preaching role, he is all hellfire and brimstone in perfect formidable cadence.

Director Robert Kauffman deserves kudos for bringing out first-rate performances from his amateur actors.

The supporting cast includes Adam Conklin as Melvin Wilder, Walter League as Ferris Layman, Lesley Rauch as Darlene Henshaw, Sarah Buquid as Luella Bennett and Bart Raeke as Dewey Maples. Other cast members are Bernadette Arvidson as Norma Henshaw, Charlotte Claypool as Goldie Short and Don Rutter as Basil Bennett.

The set, designed by Joy Ajello, uses ramp-like platforms of varying heights to convey hills, a well, farmland, a diner, a porch and a dry goods store as well as a lakeside dock. Designer Peter Kaiser's lighting portrayed the changing moods and shifting weather as well as the ominous water of the well and the lake.

"The Diviners" will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Pascal Center for the Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College. Information: 410-541-2457.

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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