Monday, April 25, 2011

Locals Know - The Grapes of Wrath

Over the weekend the Festival posed the question “How would you celebrate the Bards birthday”? Well we went to see a play of course. We had the pleasure of seeing the opening preview of “The Grapes of Wrath.” Although it wasn’t classical Shakespeare it is a classic American story, and this production is a beautifully intimate nugget.

First of all the audience should go into this play with the realization that the story being portrayed here is not a happy one, this is a slice of life from a tumultuous time period in American history, but what makes it beautiful is the story’s portrayal of the sense of family, and the struggle to survive no matter what heartbreaks we are faced with.

We had very close seats for this production and this had positive and negative effects on our overall opinion of the production. One of the positives of sitting so close was that we were drawn into the play. It is a play where you need to feel for the characters, and the kindness they exude. The production became very intimate for us, but we wondered whether that same feeling was conveyed to the patrons at the back of the theatre.

Although minimal the set is beautiful. There are moments when the truck is alone on stage, and it gives you the feeling of isolation this family endures on this daunting journey. In the next minute they transform the stage into such wonderful visual images the likes of which, we had never experiences on the stage before.

One of the negatives of sitting so close was that we could see into the wings and saw far too much of the set entering and exiting. We hope that this will be worked out as the crew becomes more comfortable in moving the set on, and off, and we have to admire the work that goes on back stage to make the transitions in this play so seamless.

In terms of great performances there are many. Janet Wright is perfect as Ma, and Chilina Kennedy pulls off another magical chameleon like performance and transforms herself into a naive country girl who must face new harsh realities of life. (The final image of the play with Chilina is breathtaking.) Tom McCamus has a hit in his portrayal of Jim Casy while Evan Buliung holds it all together with his strong portrayal of Tom Joad. The cast understands the rhythm of this play, and work in ensemble to pull off the nuances needed to make this play work.

Friends have told us they left this production depressed, but we left filled with the spirit of family and the strength to survive. No matter what this production will inspire many conversations and debates this season.

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