The Justice Theatre
"The Grapes of Wrath"
Raleigh's newspaper, The News & Observer , included this show among its choices as
"Best of the Best Triangle Theater Presentations of 2007."
Unfortunately, photos are not currently available. But.... if you'd like to read the 2 REVIEWS.....
Here's what a local Theater Critic had to say about the play:
REVIEW BY ROBERT W. McDOWELL
The CVNC Performing Arts Journal
FRANK GALATI'S STAGE ADAPTATION "THE GRAPES OF WRATH"
MAKES THE PLIGHT OF MIGRANT WORKERS PALPABLE
Last weekend, the Raleigh,
NC-based Justice Theater Project began its ambitious yearlong exploration of the
plight of migrant workers on a high note with a provocative presentation of
Frank Galati's Tony Award-winning new adaptation of John Steinbeck's Pulitzer
Prize-winning 1939 novel, THE GRAPES OF WRATH. This epic production, under the
able direction of Thomas Mauney, will conclude its two-week run Aug. 31-Sept. 2
in the Cardinal Gibbons High School Performing Arts Center, across Edwards Mill
Road from the RBC Center.
Mauney stages the Joad family's eventful 1938 journey from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression with lots of snap, crackle, and pop. Many members of the HUGE cast that plays the Joads, their friends, and their adversaries do not have the experience and stage presence to bring their characters fully to life, but the core cast does.
Sean A. Brosnahan gives a memorable performance as Tom Joad, an amiable but hot-tempered ex-con breaking parole to accompany his Okie parents and siblings and a few friends from the Dust Bowl to California, where rampant exploitation of itinerant workers by big corporate farmers quickly brings Tom's famous temper to the boiling point. Kevin Ferguson is quite good as former preacher Jim Casy, who has lost his faith but not his ideals; and Susannah Hough and Geof Shuford add personable portrayals of Ma Joad and Pa Joad.
John Honeycutt is a pip as Grandpa Joad, and Larry Evans makes alcoholic Uncle John Joad's sensitivity palpable. (When the going gets tough, Uncle John goes on a bender.)
Dawn Gum and Jaclyn Amanna are a bit bland as Grandma Joad and Rose of Sharon, respectively; but John T. Hall, Jim Sullivan, Rod Rich, and Collette Rutherford contribute vivid cameo performances: Hall as a haughty farm contractor recruiting cheap labor with lofty promises that he never intends to keep; Sullivan as a furtive Joad family friend who stays behind when the bank forecloses his and his neighbors' farms; Rich as the poor, befuddled Mayor of Hooverville, furtively wandering that shanty town, lost in his delusions; and Rutherford as a spiteful neighbor of the Joads at the Hooper Ranch. Rutherford and Jordan Smith also provide some expressive voiceover commentary.
Director Thomas Mauney, who doubles as lighting designer for THE GRAPES OF WRATH, sustain the show's dramatic momentum for its nearly three-hour running time despite numerous reconfigurations of scenic designer Miyuki Su's sprawling set and his own atmospheric lighting, which sometimes is too dark for the audience to follow the action. Given the colossal challenge of clothing this figurative cast of thousands in authentic 1930s duds, LeGrande Smith scores major points and lays claim to the title of costume designer of the year.
Although it has more than a few rough edges, The Justice Theater Project's stirring presentation of THE GRAPES OF WRATH deserves a large audience. Frank Galati's script captures the essence of the Okies' Diaspora and their cruel treatment in California vineyards and orchards, where they labored for pennies a day, living in unspeakable squalor and unable to work their way out of poverty.'
Here's what another critic had to say about the play:
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Orla Swift on the Best in Theater - The Grapes of Wrath
You'd think that after almost 70 years, the ills of this nation that John Steinbeck described so eloquently in "The Grapes of Wrath" might be behind us. But we are not that wise a nation.
Whether its another lost farm in North Carolina, skyrocketing mortgage foreclosures, corporate downsizing, union-busting or battles over immigrants rights, the trials of Steinbecks Joad family persist.
So why join Raleighs Justice Theater Project for a tale you could read in any days newspaper?
First, because its Steinbeck. The gritty and philosophical beauty of his words are a tonic to all who fear that fine literature is in peril. And Frank Galatis Tony Award-winning adaptation expertly culls the critical action and dialogue from Steinbecks irresistible exposition.
Second, Thomas Mauneys direction is a tour de force. Slow and poignant scenes breathe but dont drag. Rage and despair boil up organically, without stagey histrionics. And the large cast conveys a countrys worth of disparate characters and communities without pulling focus from the central drama.
You couldnt ask for more from Steinbecks ex-prisoner Tom Joad than Sean A. Brosnahans portrayal. Brosnahan who also played demanding roles in Justice Theater Projects A Lesson Before Dying and Dead Man Walking deftly conjures Toms imperfect blend of street tough belligerence and enduring kindness.
Susannah Houghs Ma Joad could split the hardest heart in two, her stoic silences saying far more than a lesser actress might with high-volume wails. You need not be a mother to grieve and fret with Ma as her children head off along uncertain paths.
Kevin Ferguson has impeccable timing as Jim Casy, the scrappy former preacher who insists he can no longer sermonize but whose irreverent philosophizing proves that he has never stopped contemplating the nature of love, faith and sin.
And Jaclyn Amanna, a 15-year-old Cardinal Gibbons student, offers a performance wise and deep beyond her years as Toms sister, the pregnant Rose of Sharon, who loses almost everything she valued and still finds the courage to offer a stranger her most intimate possession.
These crucial performances render irrelevant any brief weaknesses in the remainder of the large cast, which ranges from experienced and amateur adult actors to children with admirable focus and ability.
Working with the vast, inventive and flexible set he designed with Miyuki Su, Mauney captures the Joads long journey down Route 66 within the confines of the Cardinal Gibbons High School auditorium. At three hours, its a long trip. But with Mauney navigating, its over all too soon.
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