‘Grapes of Wrath’ sets stage tonight
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 00:04
“The Grapes of Wrath” is coming soon to the theatre and dance department at the University of Southern Mississippi. The play is based on a 1939 Pulitzer-winning novel by John Steinbeck. It was adapted to the stage by Frank Galati in 1988 and won a Tony Award for Best Play in 1990. “The Grapes of Wrath” will be the final play of the spring semester and will no doubt make a lasting impression on its audience.
The narrative follows the story of a family of “Okies,” migrant Oklahoma farmers during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. When Tom Joad is paroled from prison four years after being convicted of murder, he finds his family abandoning their infertile Oklahoma land in an attempt to find a new life in California. He and his loyal friend Jim Casy join the migrant group, breaking his parole. After a long trip, two family deaths and the dissolution of some family bonds, the family reaches California, but the land of milk and honey they had hoped for is nowhere to be seen. Through the strength of their family ties and the depths of human endurance, the characters discover the true meaning of sacrifice and leadership in the midst of labor unions, robber barons and economic turmoil.
USM’s production of this classic play will star Matthew Judd, a second-year graduate student from Atlanta, Ga. as Tom Joad. Jim Casy will be played by Josh Thomas, an undergraduate senior. Ma Joad will be portrayed by Robin Carr, an associate professor and member of the Actors Equity Association. Derrick Phillips, a first-year graduate student, will perform as Pa Joad.
“I have done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags,” said John Steinbeck after the novel’s publication. The play may in fact do the same to its audience. The production includes some strong language and violent elements that may not suit a younger audience, so parents should be cautious. Though “The Grapes of Wrath” is a classic play, its message holds great political relevance to our time.
The play opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre. Other show-times are April 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. and April 22 and 29 at 2 p.m. The show on April 22 will feature a pre-show talk at 1 p.m. by assistant English professor Charles Sumner.