Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Grapes of Wrath Review: Traveling Across the Country on the Kasser Stage

Let us return back to my theater oriented theme. What we have here is another one of Stefanie Sears's lost articles that could not be used for publication, much like my On the Town and Sweeney Todd articles. Though the Sweeney Todd one may not be considered a "lost article" considering it was published in The Montclarion, I decided to publish the original draft on here so people are able to read that version as well.

This is the most recent, and most likely final, installment of my Grapes of Wrath at MSU Coverage. I call it coverage because other random blog posts I have made in the past were associated with MSU's production of The Grapes of Wrath in some way. Check out the other installments just in case you want to refer back to them. They include my interview with Corinne Chandler and my piece about Ma Joad for my Women's History Month series "Real Influential Women Role Models (Real and Fictitious)".

I originally wrote this piece for The Montclarion, but unfortunately they could not use it, so I decided to post it here. Enjoy! :) It was the first show I saw at Alexander Kasser Theater this semester and I had been hearing so much about it prior so needless to say I was pretty excited!

*There may be spoilers in here to those of you who a) did not see the play, b) did not read the book, c) did not see the movie, or d) all of the above.*

The much anticipated play production The Grapes of Wrath, based on John Steinbeck's classic novel of the same name and written by Frank Galati, directed by Susan Kerner, had its run from March 9-12 at the Alexander Kasser Theater. It was a very amazing show that was very well done with its imagery that made you feel and think with its intensity. The sizable cast, introducing child cast members to the Kasser stage, very well depicted the struggles their characters were experiencing, thus conveying the message of togetherness of family to the audience and narration through use of song by the narrators who accompanied the cast onstage most of the time. It had the ability to cause audience members to look at their own lives and be thankful for what they have.

Lead man Tom Joad, played by senior Dustin Fontaine, discovers on his return back home after being in prison that his family has been forced to leave their Oklahoma home. The Joad family, along with Tom, then embarks with both enthusiasm and fear on a journey to California, where the good life is currently being advertised and jobs are promised, hitting snags in the road along the way. Ma Joad, played by senior Lena Chilingerian, was clearly the heroine of the play, trying to keep her family together while protecting them as it gradually falls apart, accepting the fact that things may not seem to go as planned after all.

What was interesting is that two characters could be having a conversation center stage, but the actions of the rest of the characters in the background would stand out just as much. This, the scenery, the use of water, the presentation of rain and sunlight, and the lifelike truck that provided the Joads with shelter throughout the play and drove on and offstage when pushed by other cast members made the play that much more realistic. The play was emotionally driven, the family faced with doubt and rumors treading into the unknown, with occasional humorous moments, nudity, and violence. The show also included a dance sequence to add more to the artistic imagery. The most beautiful scene, however, was the final one right before curtain call consisting of seniors Elizabeth Mackintosh as Rose of Sharon and Albert “AJ” Johnson Jr. as the Man in Barn. (Even though this is the ending of the play, I feel it deserves a mention, so I apologize for the spoiler.)

In the scene before this Rose of Sharon, the eldest Joad daughter who has been pregnant throughout the play, gives birth to a stillborn child. Seeking shelter from the rain, the Joad family runs into a barn at first unaware that it is already occupied. A man (Johnson) lies on the floor of the barn, dying, and it is explained by his son (Titus Gandy) that he does not have enough strength to eat solids due to starvation. Rose of Sharon offers her services and after everyone leaves the barn breastfeeds the man, thus being able to nurture someone after all. This single act embodies the work as a whole, for the theme of the play was to help each other in times of need and do what you can to survive.

Ultimately, it was the type of show that made you say, “Wow.”


  1. this is the kind of review that makes you go wow when you see it for it could move you with its imagery through its use of words and how they move the readers by taking you into the world of the play with the struggles and, (spoiler alert) nudity.

    ultimately, this was the type of article that made you go, "... What?"

  2. Agreed. This isn't my best work. What can I say? It's how I write lol. However, I am improving. Thank you for your comment. :)