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Good Company excites with passionate acting, plot

“Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men— to feel if this time the men would break. The women studied the men?s faces secretly, for the corn could go, as long as something else remained.”

The above quotation is an excerpt from what is arguably John Steinbeck’s greatest achievement: The Grapes of Wrath. The play version of the novel, adapted by Frank Galati, began with a slightly altered version of this passage. After several actors recited small pieces from the first chapter, they commenced to act out this legendary tale of human depravity.

Sitting in 2nd Space Theatre with a full stomach and a wallet full of cash, I could not help but recognize the eighty year time difference between the character?s world and mine. Nevertheless, Good Company Players brought this world to the audience from the very beginning. The action began with the return of Tom Joad, who just got out of prison, to his home in Oklahoma. He is eager to see his family again and is thankful to be out early on parole.

When he finally arrives at his father?s property, however, he finds a much different world than the one he left. The land has become barren from long drought and unwise farming techniques. The Great Depression has hit Oklahoma with fury. His house is demolished and there is absolutely nothing left of the Joads? farm. Tom later finds out that his family was evicted by the bank when they could no longer afford payments.

After reuniting with his family, Tom joins the Joads on a long journey to the only place where there seems to be any work: California. The rest of the play depicts the heart-wrenching tale of how the ?Okie? families travelled by thousands across the country in hopes of a better life, only to be misused by the selfish and wealthy farmers of the West.

I read the book several months ago and, like many who read the novel, I was deeply moved by Steinbeck?s telling of such a dark reality. While at the play, I was pleasantly thrilled to see that all the key scenes that made the novel great were a part of the production. The play followed very closely to the storyline of the book.

Being able to hear the voices of each character really helped the story “come alive” for me. Often, words are more powerful when spoken as opposed to simply written, and though I do not consider Good Company?s production to surpass Steinbeck?s work (such a thing is ridiculous to even consider), I did find that it gave me a deeper understanding of the story.

I found the acting to be quite proficient. All the actors played their part, or in some case multiple parts, with the distinguished skill one expects from Good Company. I especially enjoyed seeing the portrayal of Jim Casy (Noel Adams) and ?Ma? (Amelia Ryan). Ma was a very strong and stabilizing presence throughout the production, and Casy provided the flare of rebellion alluded to by the novel?s title.

I also cannot forget to commend Marc Gonzalez, who played the lead role as Tom Joad. He performed with great passion and sincerity, and his “I?ll Be There” speech was fantastic.

The only problem I found with the play was that at times it was hard to follow the storyline. I think that anyone who comes to the play without having read the book first might experience some trouble understanding the events that take place. Even I struggled a little bit to understand exactly what was happening. However, being an adaptation this is expected.

Another disclaimer to those who are unfamiliar with this story is that The Grapes of Wrath is not a light-hearted story. The scenes feature very serious and very dark depictions of historical events. People die. Women, men and children die. They are hungry, destitute and desperate. Insanity, violence and tragedy allow for very little comic relief, and there are moments in the play that rendered my eyes indefensible to unwanted tears.

But, for Steinbeck, art existed not as a tool to give pleasure to the upper-class intelligentsia, but as a weapon against social evils. He wrote this fantastic story in order to open up the eyes of the masses to the oppression that can occur under capitalism. He wrote it to wrench the hearts of the ignorant, and uphold the plight of the migrant farmer.

I have never known hunger. I have never seen the face of poverty stare back at me from the mirror, nor have I heard the scream of need resonate in my belly. This play reminded me of how lucky I am to live in the time that I live in, in the country that I live in and among the people with whom I live. It also reminded me that unjust realities are only changed when people rise up against evil.

So, instead of killing a few hours this weekend surfing the web, come and experience this awesome work of art. This play is worth the time, especially if you have read the book or seen the movie.

Showings continue until February 23rd every Thursday through Friday at 2nd Space Theatre.

This writer can be reached via Twitter: @JohnathanNyberg. Follow The Feather via Twitter: @thefeather.

For more information regarding tickets and showtimes visit: Good Company Player’s website or call 559.266.0660

For more reviews, read the Jan. 9 article, Local restaurant offers flavorful dishes, low prices.

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