What Did She Say

My mind is always open

As part of Stratford Festival’s “tweet team” I get to see their productions throughout the season. I know! Lucky me. (Not so lucky husband. His response: “One ticket, eh?” Cue stink-eye.) As always, my views are my own and are not swayed by the fact I didn’t pay to be in my seat.

Tonight I saw Grapes of Wrath at the Avon Theatre. It’s the same theatre that houses Jesus Christ Superstar. And the fact that the Superstar set gets taken down and put back up all the time amazes me.

I went into Grapes of Wrath a little skeptical, honestly. I wondered if a play could keep me entertained. Without all the big musical numbers and fabulous songs, could I be kept engaged. Then I realized, it’s not that I don’t like plays as much as musicals, I don’t like BAD plays. I do enjoy a good one. So, I sat back with a bit of a dare to Stratford Festival. Go  ahead. Entertain me for a couple hours. I dare you to try.

And they did. They not only entertained me. They amazed me. Again. I was more and more involved as the play went on. I got invested in the characters. I actually cared about them.

There are a number of actors that play roles in both Grapes of Wrath and Jesus Christ Superstar. I was blown away by their performance in JCS. Now that I’ve seen them in Grapes of Wrath, too? I’m even more impressed. Seeing the two productions proves just how amazing there actors are. They way the change the entire beings and become their roles is simply brilliant. Every bone, every muscle, every hair embodies their character. Their posture. The way they walk. Talk. Hold themselves. Move. All of it. Superb. Kudos to Chilina Kennedy, Josh Young and Paul Nolan – who play Mary Magdalene, Judas and Jesus respectively in JCS. And then Rose of Sharon, Connie and Al in Grapes.

Funny thing is that Paul Nolan (Jesus) says “Jesus” a number of times during Grapes. And many characters say it to him in response as well. This tickled me.

Another thing that made me smile is the trio that comes out between scenes to sing us through the set changes. They started to remind me of the singing mice in Babe. (That’s just where my brain goes.)

The entire cast of Grapes of Wrath is brilliant. Again, not a single weak link.

I have never read or seen Grapes of Wrath up until tonight. I was never exposed to it in high school – not the book by John Steinbeck, nor the play or movie. I knew the basic premise: family moves westward from Oklahoma to California in search of a better life. That was pretty much it.

Every twist and turn in the story was unexpected for me. I didn’t know what was coming next and I liked that. I mean, I knew there would be general strife and suckiness, but I didn’t know specifics.

I don’t want to give any spoilers because seeing the unexpected things were part of the fun for me, but you have to go and see what they did with the sets. The sets were “simple” and complex at the same time. Incredible what they can do with the space they have at The Avon. The way they used water was amazing. (How much do they spend on their sets?!)

I was moved to tears during the second act. And since I hadn’t read the book before, I had no idea how it was going to end. When the lights did go down, I thought, “What?! NO! What happens to them!?” I was left wanting more.

My one complaint is I couldn’t hear a couple of the lines very well, but the rest of the audience seemed to be able to, as they were laughing at them. Maybe I need one of those fancy headsets that plugs me into the actors’ mics.

So, to sum up. This is well worth it. The set is fantastic. The costumes, everything comes together in a very aesthetically appealing way. The direction is spot on. The acting is above and beyond.

Stratford Festival is having a bar-setting year.

Oh, and it was cool to tweet with the director tonight. Gotta love social media!

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Categories: Home - Slideshow, Reviews

3 Responses so far.

  1. […] also saw Grapes of Wrath. Again. […]

  2. Yo Jacki (see what I did there?), I was so pleased to read this post. I received an email from my former camp counselor just the other day asking if I wanted to go see this.

    When I was 16 I spent half the summer with Michelle as one of my counselors and Evan Buliung as a cabin mate. Evan plays Tom Joad in Grapes.

    If the personal connection wasn’t enough to get me going to the show your review certainly made the decision an easy one.

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