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  The Grapes of Wrath at Raven Theatre

The Grapes of Wrath

Raven Theatre
6157 N. Clark St Chicago

Steinbeck's tale of the Joad family embodies the hardships suffered during the Great Depression and the transcendent generosity of human nature in the face of adversity. The natural world sets the events in motion during the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma and brings the journey to a hopeful end in California with massive floods.

Presented by Infamous Commonwealth Theatre

Thru - May 24, 2009

Thursdays: 8:30pm
Fridays: 8:30pm
Saturdays: 8:30pm
Sundays: 3:30pm

Price: $15-$20

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-458-9780

Running Time: 2hrs 35mins; one intermission

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  The Grapes of Wrath Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...This Infamous Commonwealth Theatre production is one of those only-in-Chicago nights of theater. By that, I mean you get a cast of 19 committed actors toiling away in a rented theater, inside a converted supermarket, with all of 60 seats. Ponder the economics of that, while remembering that it’s not about the economics."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Director Genevieve Thompson's exquisitely rendered staging of the show -- with an expertly chosen cast of 19 actors and singer-instrumentalists, superb sound and music direction by Tom Haigh and a richly crafted set (truck, boxcars and all) by Alan Donahue -- subtly turns the story into America's version of "Mother Courage and Her Children." For it is the Ma Joad of Jennifer Mathews -- an actress of glorious emotional heat and depth -- who helms this show as a loving, protective life-affirming and indomitable matriarch quite different from Bertolt Brecht's mercantile European survivor."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Though Galati's sprawling Steppenwolf staging was much discussed for its inventive--and expensive--theatricality, Infamous Commonwealth Theatre's intimate, bare-bones revival is much better suited to the starkness of Steinbeck's great text, about a Depression-era Oklahoma family who migrate westward after losing their farm in a bank foreclosure. Director Genevieve Thompson's 19-member cast bring understated conviction to their roles in this slow-paced but moving production."
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Albert Williams

Windy City Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...This classroom ambience could have been mitigated by performances immersing us in our milieu, but Genevieve Thompson's uncharacteristically careless direction not only ignores such useful belief-suspending tools as regional dialects, but elementary details like destitute migrants sporting manicured hands and freshly washed hair. Most debilitating on the night that I attended, however, was the disregard for the music of Steinbeck's language, speech after speech steeped in insightful eloquence glibly recited with a haste and animation ill-suited to what we are to believe are itinerant outcasts enervated by a plethora of forced contemplation."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Chicago Free Press - Highly Recommended

"...For John Steinbeck’s masterpiece not only examines the plight of the poor Oklahomans (often bitterly referred to as ‘Okies’) forced to travel west during the Great Depression, but closely itemizes the crippling prejudices brought against these unfortunates. While the story of Tom Joad has been well documented on screen (with Henry Fonda’s bravura performance) and Broadway stage, here the story particularly resonates."
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Brian Kirst

Centerstage - Recommended

"...The production boasts two strengths: a pervading mood of bleak hopelessness and a very effective use of Raven Theatre's intimate space. This effectiveness can be credited to the combination of authentic, live Depression Era music (played and sung by the ensemble), lighting and sound design that enhances the story's loneliness and desperation and a sparsely designed set that makes us focus our attention on the characters and their story. Alan Donahue's scenic picture is a simply textured backdrop resembling a woven basket of yellowed, dried-up corn shucks caked with dust. In addition there is a versatile wooden unit that begins as the remnants of the Joad house and unbelievably turns into the vehicle by which the Oakies journey west. Amazingly, it accommodates the 12 family members as it lumbers across the stage from locale to locale."

Colin Douglas

Chicago Stage Review - Recommended

"...Take the time to see Infamous Commonwealth Theatre’s revival of The Grapes of Wrath. No matter how you are holding up through this recession, you will walk away from this show empathizing with the Joads’ frustration and loss, and counting your blessings."
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J. Scott Hill

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...Thompson presents Grapes as a litany of stunning tableaus set on an amber-lit stage encircled by dusty chiffon curtains and occupied only by a crafty, movable jalopy—a stark, gorgeous vision that allows appropriate attention to character. But the ecological backdrop remains tranquil when not downright lovely, incongruously closer to Fenimore Cooper’s overabundant West than Steinbeck’s own. What the second act gains by abandoning these sleek visuals, it loses in overcomplicated scene changes that deliver us from Dustbowl California straight into the hands of Raven Theatre."
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Christopher Shea

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...In the moments just before a play begins, when the stage is empty and the possibilities endless, it is difficult to predict just how big an impact the performance will make on the audience. Every now and then, the impact is so huge, the emotions so skillfully evoked, that the viewer can only gasp in awe. That’s what happened during the opening of Infamous Commonwealth Theatre’s revival of The Grapes of Wrath, a dazzling event that is right up there with the top 10 best plays I’ve seen since I started reviewing in 1994."
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Beverly Friend

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...Director Genevieve Thompson tackles this complex script with a firm grasp of humanity and a solid grounding in theatricality. She compiles a gifted and fearless cast. Nineteen actors come together on stage not so much to play, but rather to create a brutally intimate homage to the darkest scenes of our experience. Their reverence for this depiction is heartfelt and heart wrenching."

Venus Zarris

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