“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck – Published by L.A. Theatre Works 

“The Grapes of Wrath”
by John Steinbeck
Published by L.A. Theatre Works
Full cast performance starring: Emily Bergl, Michael Buie, Daniel Chacon, Maurice Chasse, Shannon Cochran, Trista Delamere, Jeffrey Donovan, Francis Guinan, Shirley, Charlie Matthes, Rod McLachlan, Robert Pescovitz, Joel Rafael, Stephen Ramsey, Nick Sadler, Andy Taylor,
Floyd Knowles, Todd Waring, Fredd Wayne, Michael Weston, and Kate Williamson
Live music performed by the Joel Rafael Band
Directed by Richard Masur
Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles in October, 2002.
Approx 2 hours

Once again I find myself listening to another fantastic production from L.A. Theatre Works, and once again the performance and production as a whole are enthralling that I can let the rest of the world go away and enjoy a classic story.  This time around I got the audiobook from the Audiobook Sync website (http://www.audiobooksync.com), from their SYNC YA summer audiobook program.  Every summer they offer a weekly coupling of Young Adult fiction.  The coupling exists between a new YA story and a classic story.  The week this audiobook was downloaded came with a book called the 11th Plague.  I’m saving that book for later.  I have already listened to several performances from L.A. Theatre Works, and knew that I would love this performance, So with a two hour plus car ride planned, I put this on my new mp3 player and hit the road.

The cast all performed the parts perfectly, throw that in with the sound effects and music, and once again I was placed in the center of the audience enjoying this great performance.  The interesting thing i found in this production was the music performed by the Joel Rafael Band.  The music had a lot of Woody Guthrie sound to it and at times the lead vocalist sounded a lot like Bob Dylan in his younger years.  All the music pushed the story along and made for great transitions between scenes.

I have always enjoyed every aspect of this story, from when I read the book (several times) to the movie starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.  I think mainly because it is a great description of a tough time in America and the tough stock of folks it took to keep moving on despite all the problems life throws.  Also I love the story because I was raised in Oklahoma and this story portrays Okies as a tough breed of folks.

During the Great Depression one of the many things that affected the country was the Dust Bowl that affected Oklahoma.  Severe drought and bad farming techniques created several dust storms that decimated the agriculture of Oklahoma.  The Okies were forced off of their farms and many headed West to California where there were jobs promised, via handbills, working in the fields and orchards.  As the story tells the problem was that many of the California farmers used false pretenses to attract the workers.  Where a farm would need 500 workers they would print 5,000 hand bills and maybe 1,000 workers would show up.  Creating double the people needed and many of the migrants were forced to live in poverty and even die in work camps.

This story tells of the Joad Family’s experiences as they made their way west and once arriving having to struggle for every scrap of food to feed the family, all the while Ma Joad trying to keep the family together. Eventually the workers get smart and band together to strike the poor working conditions and wages but are threatened with violence by the farmers and landowners of California.

A great historical epic from John Steinbeck that depicts the struggles of humanity and how working together we can survive.  This performance from L.A. Theatre Works is one of the best performances of “Grapes of Wrath” I have ever heard.  Definitely a must have for anyone appreciating classic literature.