“House/Divided” Provides Multi-Media Bridge Between 1930 and 2008

Quinn Banford ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

House/Divided, a play set to the rhythm of America’s recent mortgage crisis, explores the effect of economic turmoil on the commoner. Through two time periods, the Great Depression and the Great Recession, a highly technical visual experience helps the audience to find answers to the present state of American socioeconomics. Adapted from John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath, House/Divided takes into account the Joad family’s voyage to a better life in California.

Image courtesy of Arts Emerson.

The visuals were phenomenal. Before the show began it was difficult to imagine how the onstage structure would look: an angular two-story collection of gray screens and rustic furniture. When the house lights dimmed, the structure became an Oklahoma household with its inhabitants singing a hopeful song. Through the duration of the show, the broken down home would act as the medium for various projections. The ease of these changing visuals allowed for the audience to be immersed in 1930s Oklahoma landscapes and then the craziness of the New York Stock Exchange, all in a matter of seconds.

The difference between the pacing was hard to adjust to in certain instances. Often during the Grapes of Wrath scenes, the performances appeared all too dry. This may have been because the characters were directed to be simple and static, but the way it played onstage was unattractive. In addition, there were some noticeable hiccups between the actors and their microphones. This was not overly problematic but it led to some awkward moments onstage.

Image courtesy of Arts Emerson.

Putting the issues with The Grapes of Wrath segments aside, the retelling of the 2008 mortgage crisis was portrayed in an interesting way. Accounts of those affected by the banks were projected onto a screen, giving a documentary feel to it. Seeing these interviews helped to place the audience in a more realistic environment. These problems did affect people. The show gave the affected a voice. This was done very well, and added a sentimental touch that may have been lost with the Joad family segments.

When looking at what happens to the common man or woman in an economic crisis, it is only fair to relate to them, to be one of them, and House/Divided encourages the viewer to feel that turmoil. This is a worthwhile message that can be gained from this multi-media visual experience.

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