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Wednesday, 25 July 2018 09:19

Fred Mancuso Presents “Of Mice and Men”

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“Of Mice and Men” - written by John Steinbeck , directed and produced by Fred Mancuso, now playing at Whitefire Theatre.

This is an iconic story and an important part of American history as well as a part of its literary tradition. 

With such a pedigree comes a responsibility and any production attempted must do the work justice, which is tough to do when you are up against the echos of some incredible actors' work in some brilliant cinematic versions. Lon Chaney Jr and Burgess Meredith, George Segal and Nicol Williamson and more recently, Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.

Setting all that aside, it’s the characters that drive this story and our very real empathy for them all.  Even the ones that are a little harder to love.  It’s a world that few of us could truly know, set in 1910,  when migrant farmworkers were predominantly white rather than hispanic, although the work then was just as hard as it is now.  It’s a time of terrible poverty and loneliness, when men worked on farm after farm trying to save the small amount of money they earned so they could buy their own place someday and work for themselves.  But more often than not their money was spent every weekend at the brothel and the bars and they stayed in the life until they couldn’t work anymore, then heaven only knows where they went.

Fred Mancuso’s production of this sad story of George and Lennie and the men they meet on the last farm they would ever work on is quite brilliantly done.  It’s as simply set as a play could be, and yet the actors seem to filling every inch of space with their artful and intense interpretations of these familiar and now classic roles.

Everyone is truly excellent and Mr Mancuso plays Lennie with a tender sadness that works so well against Ryan de Quintal’s determined George.  Everyone is really very, very good though, each playing their part with perfection as the story increases in its melodrama and its pain.

"Of Mice and Men" is a sad story and based on Steinbeck’s own experiences working the farms of California.  But when a painful, sad story is brilliantly told it becomes art, and that art then becomes beauty and we all leave with a sense that something wonderful was accomplished and all the hard work and the hours and hours of rehearsals was truly worth it.  This production really is that good.

If you like Steinbeck then I highly recommend this production of “Of Mice and Men.”  It’s not often that smaller theatre companies put up work as serious and important as this and it’s well worth your time and your support.

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Cast

GEORGE-Ryan de Quintal

CANDY-(Uncle) Paul Sanderson

CURLEYS WIFE-Alexandra Marlin

CROOKS-Siaka Massaquoi

CURLEY & THE BOSS-Robin Zamora

WHIT-Craig Hasenbank

SLIM- V. Markus Leithold

CARLSON-Derek Long

LENNIE-Fred Mancuso

Read 625 times Last modified on Friday, 27 July 2018 16:27
Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer, director, filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She co-created the unprecedented project 52 Films/52 Weeks: A Year in Filmmaking, where she and her partners, wrote, directed, produced and edited a film a week for an entire year. She currently has several independent film projects at various stages of development.  

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2 comments

  • Comment Link Elizabeth everin Tuesday, 31 July 2018 08:21 posted by Elizabeth everin

    Fantastic review. So proud of the actors that made this classic come to life again.

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  • Comment Link Fred Mancuso Friday, 27 July 2018 14:17 posted by Fred Mancuso

    Thank you so much Samantha for your review. I am honored that you would write such a forthright statement about his play. You are an artisan, one with the eye and the pen as any accomplished filmmaker. I am honored and humbled to receive such favor. It’s very encouraging to see your words in reflection. Just be able to say the words to tell you the truth is Love, an experience like doing 'Antony' in William Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra", and 'Lee' from Sam Sheppard's "True West" light on the tongue. It’s a tough play to do on many levels. The racism that is accepted in this society was hard to whiteness and that we even today have huge populations of people that are looked down upon for the color of their skin or what they wear or drive is tough as well to see and experience. I’m hopeful that the children with continue to grow up and be more loving and accepting. Actors are story tellers and we get a snapshot through John Steinbeck of a story that’s rich characterization comes from his bringing about the story that prompts us for social justice and change. I shared with the cast that this play will be performed in 500 years. Gold is always gold when separated from the dross. To have actors who listen and risk everything is a joy and for you Samantha to have witnessed and put into words that are raw like Gold, changeless but malleable, just beautiful. So much goes into a project and to just have an idea and hang on to it for so long and to receive such favor is lovely...truly....and thank you. We can wait till the money comes, wait to get the perfect cast, wait till we feel like it and spend all our time waiting and distracted. My acting mentor Morgan Sheppard commented about the type three actor of Stanislavsky’s method. This actor, the organic actor, realizes that no emotions are called for by the scene, just actions, and they come “prepared” to play moment to moment. It’s just a tool and works when it’s worked. What wonderful things can come from being patient while discovering process that brings the team of players as with casting directors or film editors that cut trailers. My buddy Gene Gemache edits a two hour film down two a few seconds that tells the story. Our Own Kelly Gillespie, Mice' assistant director, has spent years publicizing top rated films that can be summed up and pitched in a sentence or paragraph. Her persistence and panache with the use of the language cuts through to the soul of the project and her accomplishments have brought in staggering box office numbers for some of the best films. When it is good it is good. Operators can’t open to the miraculous without the support. This cast committed to steeping in John Steinbeck's intentions but allowing the fabric of their own creativity to flow in the interaction through the listening is very cohesive and considerate. Every actor has to be committed in this play, there are no small parts. Film extra's aren’t less than either. They can make or break a film TV show performance. The best shows have the best extras because they are steeped in making Lemonade; too sweet is no good and too sour makes all the water come and the eye squint and leaves the sour. To ‘Be’ active but not intrusively toward the focus of the story telling is an art. We couldn't have done the show without Dana Burk’s wonderful costumes and support with producing, and Kelly Gillespie assisting me directing in being the eyes from the audience, and the commitment of each member of the cast. Bryan’s Whitefire Theatre and his crew of accomplished artisan’s is an event. It is a home, a gym, a playground....a privilege. To borrow a speech from George (It was my intention to send you and email to say thank you and Ryan de Quintal is not spelled with an “s” at the end .)… George- “I sure am dripping at the mouth. I ain’t told nobody all this before.” (“Of Mice and Men act II scene I”). Ryan de Quintal is the smooth running fine engine of this play, and again a pleasure to work with and consider him a brother. We all have a critic. If we stay stuck in the critical mind we will never do anything. With the society being what it is and our bent toward narcissism as a people, we can stay bitter or demand too much sweet. The message to me is this is just right for drinking. There is always room to grow as we have more shows to do as a father, an actor, a friend and brother, and as a son. In this production of “Mice”, I wanted to keep things simple, just like in life, to stay cool and fresh in perspective. This play has been done with eloquence and finesse with accomplished actors. It’s never a competition for me. It’s a story and we get to tell it…tears, I’m grateful.
    Beautiful day my lady,
    Fred

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