With a keen eye for parody and a penchant for belly-busting humor, SeaGlass Theatre is offering “Of Grapes and Nuts” at Burbank’s Little Victory Theatre.
Authors Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper and Tom Willmorth are the collective brainpower behind this surefire hit.
They have culled the highlights from John Steinbeck’s classics “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men” to graft a sidesplitting homage.
The results are guffaws and groans in equally enjoyable proportions.
Given just how funny the piece is, it’s hard to imagine why it has taken 20 years for this gem to make it from its initial 1990 Chicago production to its current West Coast premiere.
Director Paul Stroili, an original cast member, misses not a beat in guiding his uniformly talented ensemble of seven performers.
He gives each moment — be it horrid pun, anachronistic aside or recognizable reference to Steinbeck’s source material — its due, never rushing prematurely to the next.
Meanwhile, the company never falters in their commitment to Stroili’s vision maintaining an air of tongue-in-cheek, almost melodramatic style.
Leading this pack of clowns as the enigmatic Tom Joad is Ian Vogt, whose deadpan delivery is the perfect spoof of Henry Fonda’s original interpretation for this role.
In particular, Vogt’s send up of Fonda’s closing “Wherever there’s a fight…" speech is hilarious to the point of inducing tears.
Likewise, Casey Kramer as Ma Joad takes just a seed from Jane Darwell’s quietly, long-suffering, Oscar-winning film performance and cultivates a performance that steals the show.
Irascible but never losing sight of Ma’s heart of gold, Kramer’s version is instead an oftentimes ranting, wild-eyed mother bear who puts up with no fools.
Along for the ride as Steinbeck’s oversized, mouse-petting man-child, Lenny, is David Reynolds, whose naivete-based comic timing couldn’t be better.
Kimberly Van Luin is a hoot as Curly, the bushy-haired female boss who owns the peach farm where the Joad family winds up working.
A combination of characters from “Of Mice and Men, Van Luin winds up becoming the unfortunate object of Lenny’s overzealous romantic affections.
Lauren McCormack, Jen Ray and David Ghilardi demonstrate their gifted versatility playing a list of individualized supporting characters who round out the two merged storylines.
Production values are superb, featuring David George’s ingeniously adaptable scene design and Efrain Schunior’s impeccably timed sound effects.
Jennifer May Nickle’s era-specific costuming is first-rate, evoking a true sense of the Great Depression.
The opportunity to catch this show during its limited run is not to be missed.
And, one can only hope it isn’t another two decades before we see what this company can do with “Cannery Row” and “Travels with Charley.”
Dink O’Neal, an actor and member of the American Theatre Critics Assn., resides in Burbank.
What: “Of Grapes and Nuts”
What: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 24
Where: The Little Victory Theatre, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank
Contact: (818) 745-5537 or https://www.seaglasstheatre.org