Tuesday, July 29, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Depression-era classic finds new life at UCD

grapes of wrath 02W

Tom Joad (John Zibell) explain to his ma (JanLee Marshall) that he has to leave but that he'll "be all around." Abigail Alcala/Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | March 12, 2014 |

In the know
What: “The Grapes of Wrath”
Where: Main Theatre, Wright Hall
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $17-$19 general, $12-$14 for students, children and seniors
Info: Call 530-754-2787 or 866-754-2787 or visit tickets.mondaviarts.org

Today’s newspapers are filled with stories of climate changes that are wiping out crops and causing the price of some goods to skyrocket, anger over migrant workers taking away jobs from the locals and greedy bankers ready to foreclose on homes and turn families out on the streets.

Was there ever a more perfect time for the revival of John Steinbeck’s Depression era story, “The Grapes of Wrath,” now at UC Davis’ Main Theatre?

The climatic change was the yearly dust storms that rolled across the plains, killing off crops and making the soil uncultivable. The migrant workers of the 1930s were “Okies,”coming from Oklahoma to California on the promise of farming work, as welcome then as are today’s Mexican migrant workers. And haven’t there always been heartless bankers ready to foreclose on a family’s mortgage in order to line their own pockets?

“The Grapes of Wrath” was the perfect choice for director and Granada Artist-in-Residence Miles Anderson. Anderson writes that by the age of 14 he had read all of Steinbeck’s great novels and that his mother’s upbringing in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was “deprived and penniless,” so this story of the Joad family resonated with him.

He also found it significant that UCD is located in a farming community, just 150 miles northeast of Salinas, where Steinbeck lived and worked.

In Frank Galati’s adaptation of the story (which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1990), music is added (by orchestra members Kristen Guggenheim, Stephen Robinson and Cole Sutliff), though this is not a musical. The musical numbers are stuck in at certain points to lend an air of period authenticity and strike the proper tone, a lovely background for a funeral and a lively accompaniment for a camp dance, for example.

John Zibell, the only Actor’s Equity actor in the production, is a wonderful Tom Joad, very noble, very dedicated. Tom has just been released from prison (“on parole,” he has to tell everyone who assumes he has escaped!) and returns to find his family home abandoned, the family having packed up and preparing to move to California because of a flier they received saying that 800 jobs are waiting to be filled.

The family piles into a marvelous wreck of a truck (on loan from the San Francisco Opera) and proceeds through several adventures, both good and bad, to head for California. On the way they bury both Grampa (Ned Jacobson) and Gramma (Lindsay Beamish), both of whom are delightful oldsters, totally devoted to each other and bereft at the thought of leaving their lifelong family home. Grampa has to be drugged to get him on the truck.

Ma Joad is a wonderful character and Janlee Marshall gives her both pride and stoicism, a woman whom life has tried to beat down, but who refuses to give up on hope. It is she who is determined to keep the family together.

Cooper Wise is Jim Casy, the former preacher who has lost his ability to preach because he just doesn’t believe anymore, though when needed, he can manage to find words for grace before meals, or for a burial.

There are others in this cast who are also strong and add to the overall success of the work. David Orzechowicz is Pa Joad, a hard-working sharecropper who is determined to believe that he will find work if he can just get his wreck of a truck to California.

Amanda Vitiello is Rose of Sharon, all “growed up,” married, pregnant and already feeling beaten down by life, even more so after her husband Connie’s (Kyle Roddy) desertion and the death of her child.

The children, Ruthie and Winfield, are double-cast and were played on the night I attended by Ella Kroll and Geoffrey Votaw (who is so cute he steals the show, though very professional while on stage). In other performances the roles will be played by Isabella Park and Django Zibell (“Tom Joad’s” real-life son).

Anyone who has seen the movie will remember Henry Fonda’s iconic “I’ll be all around” speech, as he prepares to leave his family to spare them having to hide him from the police. Fonda gave it the weight of any major speech, but in this production, Tom is just talking to his Ma and it’s his way of letting her know that he is leaving … and that he plans to work for better working conditions for people like the Joad family.

Steinbeck shone the spotlight on cruel and inhumane treatment of some people by other people, but he also showed that there is goodness and hope in the world. It is a message that we would all do well to remember, whether we are the downtrodden, or those in a position to do something about the conditions of our fellow man.

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Tickets, sponsorships available for 10th annual Village Feast

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    That’s the ticket: Mondavi finds success with dynamic pricing

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Groundwater expert will speak in Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Fair entries due soon for veggie, flower exhibitors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Forum will explore injured veterans’ issues

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Humphrey Fellows share tales from their countries

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Hear Julie and the Jukes in the park

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Square Tomatoes celebrates its anniversary

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Exchange program seeks host families

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    .

    Forum

    Our own policies do us harm

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Pat Oliphant cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A4

    It’s all the ecologists’ fault

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

     
    Refrain from generalization

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

     
    Accusations tear family down

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    .

    Sports

    Thorpe named UCD head softball coach

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Republic sets attendance record

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Cats let win slip away in Tacoma

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Houston continues to be a problem for A’s

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lawrence Okoye preparing for the NFL

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Pirates plunder S.F.

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7