Based on the novel by John Steinbeck and adopted for the stage by Frank Galati, The Grapes of Wrath is all about crossings. The Joad family was affected by the dust bowl of the 1930s, which resulted from over farming, and lack of proper crop rotation, which depleted the topsoil. This forces the family to leave Oklahoma and cross deserts, mountains and rivers to a more hopeful future in California. But these physical crossings take on many deeper and at times even biblical meanings.
When they reach the Colorado River, Noah (Jeff Coti) says that he “can’t leave this here water.” When a member of the family asks how he’ll eat, another family member answers that, “he says he’ll catch fish.”
Jim Casey (John Craven), an ex-preacher that tags along on the Joad family’s journey, talks about how everyone, he included, has lost the spirit. “Sin is something you ain’t sure about,” Casey says. “A fella builds his own sins right up from the ground.” He says this to Tom Joad (Brent Lindsay) who just got out of prison on parole. He had killed a man in a fight after the man had stuck a knife in Tom. Tom admires Casey as a preacher who has the ability to write powerful prayers – prayers that people’s “troubles stick to like flies on flypaper.” When Tom gets into a fight with a policeman, it’s J.C. (Jim Casey) who saves Tom from being thrown back in jail by saying that it was he not Tom that hit the policeman. When J.C. dies, Tom crosses over into the more spiritual realm set by J.C’s. compassionate example. “Ill be all around in the dark,” Tom says. “I’ll be everywhere.”
But there’s nothing preachy about the play. Indeed, what makes it interesting is that all the characters are flawed, but they’re all willing to take risks to cross over to the hope of a better, more enlightened life.
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