June 23, 2024

Last week in Chakeres Memorial Theater, a large cast of talented student actors and actresses took the stage in Wittenberg Department of Theater and Dance’s presentation of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” adapted by Frank Galati and directed by Patrick Reynolds.
The stage space was expanded, and seemed twice its actual size. The setting was minimalistic in quantity of props, but not in quality; deep hues of blue and grey set the tone for the story to come.
The play opened to a narration by Sophomore Mecca Abdul-Aziz and musical accompanist senior Carl Burgason, introducing Steinbeck’s well-know story of poverty, loss and expedition.
The story begins with the return of Tom Joad, played by sophomore Joey Prines, fresh from Oklahoma state prison stumbling into former reverend Jim Casey, played by sophomore Carson Betts. Casey spends time expressing his fall from grace, or at least his new-found definition of holy. After swapping stories and catching up, the two make their way to the Joad family farm — only to find that their farm, and those surrounding it, are deserted.
In search of his family, the two take off in the direction of Tom’s Uncle John’s home. After a short family reunion, Ma and Pa, played by senior Sarah Van Deusen and sophomore Michael Prezioso, announced the plan to move west to California where they hoped to find work as fruit-pickers. The story is based around the idea that no matter what has happened thus far in their lives — the move to California was their chance to get their lives back on track. A few fixes on the family’s rickety old pick up truck, and the family began to pack their few possessions for the trip. The large party of 13 piled into the truck and were off on their journey to a better standard of living and working wages with hopes of smooth sailing and greener grass.

The family takes hits, one after another, as they make their way across the states to California. The physical loss of some and emotional abandonment of others leaves Ma struggling to hold the family together as they reach the border of California. Uncle John, played by freshman Logan McCord, reveals his heavy drinking problem and struggle with luck and sin, while the relationship between Tom’s sister and her husband crumbles; with every scene, each character was given more life. The Joads bounced from one overcrowded campsite to the next, struggling to find work and provide for each other, soon coming to terms with the migrant life they have come to live as they battle the oppression of low-wages and need.

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