The Grapes of Wrath – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Is it coincidental that Job from Bible lore endures a mighty list of travails, being continually tested by God, and John Steinbeck creates the Joad family in Oklahoma to journey to California, against all odds, during the difficult times of the Great Depression? While Job was wealthy, the Joads knew poverty first hand. Still the comparison seems possible. One would need determination, perseverance and a strong will to survive the great traumas that face both Job and the Joads. The suffering and adversities are many, yet the human spirit battles to endure.

Let the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, in the Jorgenson Auditorium, give you a lesson in courage until Sunday, October 14. This Steinbeck novel has become a prize-winning movie as well as the 1990 winner of a Tony and Outer Critics Circle Award, a drama penned by Frank Galati.

Will the Joads find the promised golden land of California, if they even make it to the west coast? Can the steel magnolia strong Ma Joad have the fortitude to lead this desperate family, three generations strong, against the overwhelming elements? Her son Tom, a newly freed from prison Mauricio Miranda, returns to his Oklahoma roots just as the clan is packing the truck to travel west. Full of promise, they have just lost their farm but are eager to start anew and leave the Dust Bowl behind.

Ma and Pa (Angela Hunt and Ken O’Brien) with Granma and Grampa (Johanna Leister and Dale AJ Rose) want and need work. Visions of juicy oranges and tasty grapes fill their heads and, hopefully, soon their stomachs. Like in a video game, obstacles pop up at every curve in the road. Tom has trouble controlling his temper, his pregnant sister Rose of Sharon (Alex Campbell) has different ideas from her new husband Connie (Aiden Marchetti), brother Noah (Nick Greika) at the last moment refuses to leave home and brother Al (Sebastian Nagpal) has his eye on all the ladies. Jim Casy (Joe Jung), a former preacher, joins the Joads heading out.

The heaviness of the heartaches are relieved by the music created by Rob Barnes who sings, plays guitar and also serves as narrator, A number of unusual instruments like a washboard, banjolele and washtub bass add to the spirit, especially at the lively square dance scene. Gary English sensitively directs this deeply moving tale of one family’s struggle to secure a better life.

For tickets ($10-35), call the CT Repertory Theatre at the Jorgenson at 860-486-2113 or online at Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m and Sunday at 2 p.m.

John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for his book and Frank Galati secured the 1990 Tony Award for Best Play for his adaptation. “Grapes of Wrath” is well worth your undivided attention.