Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Jeff Hole and Tim Bass
Theatre Downtown, Orlando, FL
Chances are you couldn’t escape high school without reading this Great American Novel but if you did you owe it to yourself to drop by for this remedial review. George (Hole) and Lenny (Bass) drift from ranch to ranch in the Sacramento Valley. The Depression is in full force but their real problem is Lenny isn’t right in the head. He obsesses over smooth or furry objects, has no long term memory and his mountain man strength means he can kill without meaning to do harm. Today they end up bucking barley for The Boss (Michel Hooper) but their real trouble lies with Curly (Scott Browning). He’s insanely jealous of his wife (Pamela Stone) and she is bored to tears and wants someone to talk to, even if it’s just the ranch hands. Curly is itching for trouble and when he tackles Lenny he’s badly injured. When Curley wife gets feed up and packs her bags, she runs into Lenny and he kills her. Now George is stuck with the worst decision of his life, and the lights fade.
Sometimes ponderous, sometimes humorous, and occasionally creepy, this is a solid examination of friendship and love and what bounds constrain those emotions. As George, Mr. Hole has the rough and rugged look and feel of a man who knows what he can and can’t do, and what he can get away with. He’s also a physical contrast against the much larger and puppy-like Tim Bass. I’m never sure what obligation binds them together, an ancient promise to a long gone aunt seems insufficient and they feel like an old married couple as they plow over pipe dreams of an impossible future. John Kelly plays the one handed Candy, he’s nearly as old as his dog is in dog years but he’s forced to put down his only friend. The fire brand here is Scott Browning; he’s at his explosive psycho best and the Man With The Vaseline-Filled Glove. As his wife, Pamela Stone is petite and charming and while the men call her a tart she seems no more sinful than anyone else. Lastly I’ll point out wonderful Robert Wright as Crooks; he’s the black skeptic who’s not allowed in the bunk house and forces to read books for entertainment.
This story drips with themes and sub text, and that’s why it’s so popular in schools despite a constant pressure to ban it. There is some strong language and talk about whorehouse etiquette, but there’s also the compelling questions about what it means to be lonely, what it means to befriend, and why sometimes you must kill the one thing you care abou, just because you care about it. There were more than a few tear in the seats, and remember: we don’t go to theatre to feel bad, we go to FEEL.
For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net