“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.
GEORGE-Ryan de Quintal
CANDY-(Uncle) Paul Sanderson
CURLEYS WIFE-Alexandra Marlin
CURLEY & THE BOSS-Robin Zamora
SLIM- V. Markus Leithold