The Arts

The Grapes of Wrath

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Reviewed by Paula Citron
August 9, 2011

The Grapes of Wrath
Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Adapted by Frank Galati from the novel by John Steinbeck
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Performed by Evan Buliung, Chilina Kennedy, Janet Wright, Randy Hughson and Tom McCamus
Avon Theatre
Apr. 23 to Oct. 29, 2011

The Stratford Festival production of The Grapes of Wrath is a noble undertaking. Chicago-based director/writer Frank Galati has made a loving adaptation, and Stratford director Antoni Cimolino has been reverential in bringing the sweeping story to the stage.

The cast is huge, and there are some fine performances. John Arnone’s clever set evokes rural America in the 1930s, including the truck that carries the Joad family from Oklahoma to California. Carolyn M. Smith’s period correct costumes are wonderful. In fact, the theatrical values of The Grapes of Wrath are stunning.

Nonetheless, the production borders on being tedious. The problem would appear to be two-fold. One is the too earnest approach on the part of Cimolino and his cast. The second is the flat performance by Janet Wright as Ma Joad. Ma is the glue that holds the family together, and Wright’s monotone performance brings down the whole energy of the show.

The Grapes of Wrath continues at Stratford’s Avon Theatre until Oct. 29.

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