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MOTHER ROAD

MOTHER ROAD proves that there is nothing that makes a family fight or bond, more than a road trip. Now playing at San Diego Repertory Theatre through October 31st, MOTHER ROAD offers a diverse and modern perspective to family, legacy, and what it means to be able to come back home.

In John Steinbeck‘s “The Grapes of Wrath” the Joad family flee their drought-stricken Oklahoma to make a new start in California. MOTHER ROAD is a sequel to that book with Tom Joad’s last living descendants making the trek back to Oklahoma where the Joad farm has been taken care of by the branch of the family that didn’t go west.

Photo Credit: A scene from "Mother Road" at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, Photo by Rich Soublet Photography

William Joad (Mark Murphey), the last Joad in Oklahoma, and since he is quite sick he has tasked his attorney Roger (Jason Heil) to find the next heir to the Joad farm. It’s important to Will that the farm stays in the family, and if that means giving it to someone from Tom Joad’s branch, the branch that left Oklahoma, then that’s what he’s willing to do. That heir turns out to be Martín Jodes (Richard Jessie Johnson), a young Mexican-American farmhand who is skeptical of this stranger talking about family legacy and offering a farm he could one day outright own.

They do eventually set out on a road trip back to Oklahoma, and after skimming the surface to get to know one another, they eventually start irritating and outright fighting with each other- which proves true to the Joad temperament. A scene in a gas station is the turning point where they each start to learn deeper truths about each other and also show how the America of today has changed as much as the Joad/Jodes family.

As much as Willis is haunted by the memories of the family that stayed and suffered in Oklahoma to build the farm, Martín is haunted by his lost love Amelia (Celeste Lanuza), and a traumatic event in his mother’s past. As the road trip continues, a Greek chorus ensemble helps tell stories, and sing songs as they progress.

Along the way, they pick up other travelers in need of a destination including Martín’s cousin Mo (a very funny Yadi Correa) a farm forewoman who Martín wants to work on the family farm, James(Cedric Lamar) who helps them reconnect to the spirit of the Earth, and Curtis (Javier Guerrero) who is an Oklahoma farmhand interested in preserving and protecting his own family legacy.

Like the book, the play has a lot to say about family, how to rebuild after profound loss, and what achieving the “American Dream” actually means. Written by Octavio Solis there are some moving speeches and events, but like most road trips would benefit from being a bit shorter and a less winding and more direct route through to the end.

Directed by Sam Woodhouse the staging is creative and keeps the sense of forward-motion both in the story and on stage. Scenic and production design by Charles Murdock Lucas, lighting design by Chris Rynne, costumes by Jennifer Brawn Gittings, and music and sound design by Paul James Pendergast build a beautiful and sprawling road trip for the story.

MOTHER ROAD is a compelling play about revisiting the past to build upon the future, even if that future may not look like the legacy originally envisioned.

How To Get Tickets

MOTHER ROAD is playing at the San Diego Repertory Theatre through Sunday, October 31st. For ticket and showtime information go to www.sdrep.org

San Diego Rep requires proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 72 hours of the curtain. Face masks are required for the entire time inside the theatre.

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