The Grapes of Wrath, now on stage at the Cort Theatre, is a virtuoso display of naturalism: a rickety Hudson is frantically packed by many hands and is seen to carry the dispossessed farmers from Oklahoma to California; people bathe in a river; changing hours of day and night are softly suggested. These fluid tableaux alternate with frozen tableaux: folks line up for a saying of grace or to contemplate with rapturous awe the first sight of the promised land of California. Kevin Rigdon’s scenery and lighting show a craft in full bloom.

The play, as the oddly worded credits would have it, is “based on the novel by John Steinbeck, adapted and directed by Frank Galati” The production is by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and it breathes a spirit of earnest communalism: in the program, the players are listed alphabetically, and on the stage, a busy democracy of...


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