If you’ve ever read The Grapes of Wrath you’re familiar with the Joad family. Some of the fictional family migrated from Oklahoma to California for new opportunities during and after the Dust Bowl. But if you read the book, you’ll remember that Cali wasn’t the oasis these migrant families were expecting.
Arena Stage’s latest, Mother Road, is the continuation of their story — the tales of what might have become both of those poor souls who traveled Route 66 — the old mother road of flight — and those who stayed behind to survive in Oklahoma.
But of course it isn’t just a story about family history, land, and endurance, but about the face of those hardships in present day. Playwright Octavio Solis’s interpretation is a beautiful redefinition of the American Dream comingled with our continuing national struggle.
Like it has done with so many past injustices brought into the context of today, Arena Stage stages an epic tale about what happened… and what’s about to happen.
Taking place in a theatre-in-the-round, Mother Road’s action happens between Arvin, California and Salisaw, Oklahoma where William Joad (Mark Murphey) meets his only family ancestor, Mexican immigrant Martin Jodes (Tony Sancho), and travels with him to their family farm, which he hopes to ultimately pass on after his impending death.
There’s a lot of heavy stuff that passes on this return trip down the mother road, so the expert comic relief provided courtesy of Mo (Amy Lizardo) is much appreciated.
All in all, it’s an inspiring play, but that’s not to say that it ends happily for all. What’s important is that Mother Road‘s stage adaptation breathes new and contemporary energy into a literary classic that has for decades embodied a story of America.
Sure, there’s prejudice, but there’s also empathy, resilience, hope, and ambition. Mother Road details both our intriguing tie with the land — as Americans, as well as ties between us — as humans.
Mother Road runs February 7 through March 8, 2020 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Tickets are available here.