Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 838
Frank Galati's stage adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel premiered in 1988 at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. The play went on to win the Best Play Tony Award in 1990. The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joad family as they leave their home and head west during the Dust Bowl. Dramatists Play Service (a play-licensing and theatrical publishing company) says that the play maintains "the simplicity and directness of the original novel."
The cast totals to twenty-two people in the stage adaptation. The play employs the use of narrators, in addition to the standard characters, to tell the story. The narrators help set the scene and also help Galati maintain much of Steinbeck's original text.
For example, a passage from the play is as follows:
Fourth Narrator. The boxcars, twelve of them, stood end to end on a little flat beside the stream. There were two rows of six each, the wheels removed. Up the big sliding doors slatted planks ran for cat-walks. They made good houses, water-tight and draftless, room for twenty-four families, one family in each end of each car. No windows, but the wide doors stood open. (The rusted side of a boxcar is revealed. The trough of water is open. Pa is standing in the open doorway. Ma and Uncle John are seated nearby. The fourth narrator moves out of sight.)
MA. It's nice. It's almost nicer than anything we had.
You can see how the Narrator provides the description, with additional action noted by the italicized stage directions in parenthesis. Ma comments on the boxcar set out before her. This scene is very similar to the passage in the novel:
The boxcars, twelve of them, stood end to end on a little flat beside the stream. There were two rows of six each, the wheels removed. Up to the big sliding doors slatted planks ran for cat-walks. They made good houses, water-tight and draftless, room for twenty-four families, one family in each end of each car. No windows, but the wide doors stood open. In some of the cars a canvas hung down in the center of the car, while in others only the position of the door made the boundary.
The Joads had one end of an end car. Some previous occupant had fitted up an oil can with a stovepipe, had made a hole in the wall for the stovepipe. Even with the wide door open, it was dark in the ends of the car. Ma hung the tarpaulin across the middle of the car.
"It's nice," she said. "It's almost nicer than anything we had 'cept the gov'ment camp."
Galati's use of narrators allows the play to include Steinbeck's detailed descriptions in the performance.
In addition to descriptions from the narrators, there are many memorable quotes from the characters in the script.
Ma says to Tom when they leave Hooverville:
You got to have patience. Why, Tom—us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we’re the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people—we go on.... We keep a-comin'. Don you fret none, Tom. A different time’s a comin'.
This quote reflects hope and perseverance even when facing adversity.
Hope is also reflected in the following quote said by Rose of Sharon:
Well, we talked about it, me an' Connie. Ma, we wanna live in a town. Connie gonna get a job in a store or maybe a fact'ry. An' he's gonna study at home, maybe radios, so he can get to be a expert an' maybe later have his own store. An' we'll go to pitchers whenever. An' Connie says I'm gonna have a doctor when the baby is born.
Rose of Sharon is full of hope for the future she will have with Connie and their baby. However, later in the story, Connie disappears and the baby is stillborn. Rose of Sharon must find that hope again, and instead of despairing, she is able to help a starving man by feeding him her breast milk.
Jim Casy, a former preacher, has profound lines in the play. He reflects on the concept of holiness when asked to say grace before eating:
I got thinkin' how we was holy when we was one thing, an' mankin' was holy when it was one thing. An' it on'y got unholy when one mis'able little fella got the bit in his teeth an' run off his own way, kickin' an' draggin' an' fightin'. Fella like that bust the holi-ness. But when they're all workin' together—kind of harnessed to the whole shebang—that's right, that's holy.
Casy believes in everyone working together. This connects with the quote from Ma above, as Ma also believes in the family sticking together. While Casy says he is no longer a preacher, his words are meaningful and have a great impact on the characters in the play, such as Tom, as well as the audience watching the play.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support