Director Betsy Bishop calls “The Diviners,” “a slice of life with a big knife.”

The play’s exploration of faith, friendship, hope and community is so fascinating, she says.

As a lesson in humanity for Ashland High School’s theatrical troupe, the Depression-era story serves up equal portions of tragedy and comedy.

Writer Jim Leonard Jr.'s story previews Wednesday, Nov. 1, opens Thursday, Nov. 2, and runs at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through Nov. 12. The performances will be at Ashland High School's Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave.

Preview tickets are $7. Reserved seats for all other shows are $15 and can be purchased at showtix4u.com or by calling 866-967-8167. General seating is $10, $7 for age 18 and younger or 65 and older. Call 541-482-8771 for information and group sales. Tickets can be purchased at showtix4u.com, by calling 866-967-8167, or at Paddington Station, Tree House Books or Music Coop.

"The Diviners” is set in the fictional small farming community of Zion, Indiana. CC Showers, a charismatic but back-sliding preacher, drifts into town and meets Buddy, a gentle but emotionally disturbed boy who is frightened of water, yet happens to have the gift of divining water. The two outcasts, both battling demons and phobias, find a common bond and help each other divine for truth, faith, love and hope.

When the townspeople force the preacher to return to a way of life he no longer believes in, life gets messy, Bishop says.

There is a crisis of faith and a test of the trust that CC and Buddy have in one another.

"It’s an earthy, funny and tragic play that speaks to a need for community during a very dark time in our nation’s history,” Bishop says. “It’s simple and yet deeply profound.”

Every character has a back story, she says, and ideals that are both curses and blessings.

Though set in the Depression, Bishop said the play is important because its themes are still relevant.

Like the townspeople who each have a point of view and — in their desire to achieve what they believe to be righteous and true — cause distraction and calamity, we have well-meaning folks working at counter purposes in our society, Bishop says.

"We don’t always agree on the truth, but we are challenged not to lose faith or hope,” she says.

Featured cast members include Nur Shelton (CC Showers); Kate Jaques Prentice (Jennie Mae); Nicky Clary (Buddy); Kyle Storie (Ferris); Audrey Cirzan (Norma); Sierra Milburn (Luella); Jack Kleen (Basil); Avram Rosewood (Melvin); Owen Lucas (Dewey); Taiga Sherman (Darlene); Allie Poole (Goldie), and Zoe Lishinsky, Julia Tobrock and Ella Stringer  as elegists.

Bishop adds that her creative team includes members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival company and several of her former students. Emily Inget and Cherelle Guyton are costume designers. Natalie Scott is the set designer. Bart Grady is the lighting designer.

Ashland High School is in its 24th year partnering with OSF, Bishop says.

“It’s great to have input from the professionals,” she says. “These students are so very fortunate.”