As a Christmas present, I bought tickets for Dan to four Barksdale Theater productions. Four dates! He loves theater, we almost never have opportunity to dress up, and we seldom plan dates together (we mean to, but have trouble thinking ahead and organizing ourselves).
On Saturday night we took in a performance of The Grapes of Wrath. As a date, lovely. Trusted sitter, fancy clothes, chance to chat together over dessert at intermission, seeing a show we haven't seen before. Dan escaped having to read TGoW in high school so the story was pretty new to him. I hadn't read it in 20 years, so it was pretty fresh to me.
I have to say, this book would not be my pick to adapt to the stage. Apparently the play won a Tony in 1998, and I'm not sure why (politics, maybe? pro-union support?). There's a reason the book is 500+ pages long. Actually, multiple reasons: character development, conveyance of the endurance of this family, giving the reader a sense of the endlessness of their plight, getting the scope of the westward movement across. I'm sure I could think of more. Let's just say you can't do it justice in 3 hours. I shouldn't be wondering what the hell is going on when Noah goes downriver. I should be sick and tired of Rosasharn's self-centeredness. I should have a clue WTF is going on with Connie. I should care when yet another character dies. And while the play wasn't long enough to adequately invest the audience member in story, it was too long to sit in theater seats. *yawn*. In defense of the cast: the man who played the role of Tommy Joad turned in an inspired performance and changed my perspective on the character. There were many fine acting moments. The play as a whole caused me to want to re-read the book, which is saying a LOT, since I suffered and dragged through it in high school. But still, this is not a story for the stage. Especially not if you insist on having musical interludes and include one in which the strolling guitarist starts singing about how the "grapes of wrath are growing" in the people. Oh, ugh. Please don't do that. Am I in a Simpson's episode? 'Cause that feels like the stuff of satire.
So, to sum up:
date night: good
Grapes of Wrath, the book: read it
Grapes of Wrath, the stageplay: skip it
I'm much more excited about the next show, an adaptation of Mark Twain's posthumously-published Is He Dead?