House (and Opinions) / Divided

I do believe that history repeats itself. If we don’t learn and apply the new knowledge we acquire from historical events, then we will keep making the same mistakes. Marianne Weems’s “House / Divided”, a play inspired by Grapes of Wrath, focuses in on this idea.


The play is divided into two sections and is constantly shifts between the two. The first section deals with a family during the Great Depression. They can’t afford their home due to the Dust Bowl and as a result, they move to California. The second section deals with Wall Street and the banks before and after the 2008 recession.


Interestingly enough, the set was very resourceful. The same house was used in both eras of time. When the play shifted to the Depression, one can really understand the problems that family was facing. But as we shifted to Wall St, one sees almost no focus on the individual. It was only focused on the corporate and banking side of homes. By juxtaposing the two, the audience can clearly see the differences.


The acting and costumes were superb. The stockbrokers from the present day era showed a certain corporate culture through the use of multiple computer screens, fast-talking, and profanity. The performers, through the use of accents, the clothing, and the banjo playing, brought the poor Midwestern family to life.

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Moreover, the recent era focused more on the pre-recession. Everyone in the audience knew that eventually, the fall would come. It was very self-reflexive. It always is. We as humans look at all of our mistakes from a retrospective point of view. The Depression era focused more on the aftermath. Unlike the recent era, there was a certain mystery. Where does the family go after this? You just had to stay and watch to see what was going to happen next.


In all, the play was good and relevant to many of us since we all lived through the 2007 financial crisis.


Lucky for us, this play had a talkback. The producers and the director set on the stage and explained their work. It was very helpful. As they were speaking, I better understood many of the play’s themes and sub-themes. Then came the part where the audience can ask any question they want to the people on stage. Many of the questions that were asked were that of praise of the play. But then the famous old lady came on stage. She stated to people on the stage that, “YOU BLEW IT”. The entire audience—including me—experienced a moment of aporia. No one expected it. At first, I thought the lady had no decorum, but on the train ride back home I thought of something else. The lady seemed to be in her late seventies to early eighties. If you were to do the math, you can say that she was born around the 1930s. That decade was what I would like to call the time of harsh truth and when children became adults. There was no sugar coating of issues. They were presented as is. So, I don’t blame the old lady for making the comment. I do blame the era in which she was born for influencing her.

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Still, Marianna Weems could have handled the situation better. Instead of ignoring the lady down, she could have gave her a rebuttal on why she chose to do this and say that she values her opinion. Instead, she sounded a bit like a child by saying “Well, you go make a play and I will come review it.” She should have acted more professionally. Luckily, that episode didn’t diminish my view on the entire play.

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