Of Mice and Men
Also see Susan's review of A Lesson Before Dying
George (Richard Pilcher) and Lennie (Christopher Lane), friends since childhood, travel together because Lennie, a large, physically intimidating man with the mind of a child, can't take care of himself. George does the thinking for both of them and does his best to keep Lennie out of trouble, since Lennie is a gentle soul who doesn't know his own strength. The two men dream of buying their own farm where they can raise crops for themselves and Lennie can tend rabbits, but Lennie's inability to understand his own actions keeps threatening that dream.
Lane has always been a physical actor, but the overpowering nature of his performance here is a surprise. He ably inhabits Lennie's hulking body, and his voice seems to echo from deep within himself. Pilcher is not a small man by himself, but next to Lane he seems lithe, as agile in body as he is in mind.
Director Alan Wade works to lay out Steinbeck's vision of people trying, and failing, to build a community in hard times. Most people in this world keep to themselves, and are surprised to see two men traveling together.
The director's unvarnished view of the material does lay out some of Steinbeck's more obvious symbolism, specifically the fact that many of the characters have some form of injury or deformity. Lennie may be mentally slow, but Candy (John Dow) needs to keep on working despite losing a hand to the farm machinery; Crooks (Keith N. Johnson), the blacksmith, has an injured back, but also the spiritual injury that comes from the isolation of being the only African-American on the ranch; and Curley (Carlos Candelario), the boss's son, has a chip on his shoulder and a mean temper.
The one woman on the place, Curley's unnamed wife (Margo Seibert), gets criticized by the workers as sluttish, but she defends herself as simply wanting company. Wade seems to favor this kinder view: especially as costumed by Kathleen Geldard, Seibert comes across as a lost soul. This suggests why Lennie is drawn to her – she isn't that different from the puppies and rabbits he loves.
Carl Gudenius has designed a stark, rough-hewn set that sets the scenes in basically two-dimensional terms, with vivid washes of color from Charlie Morrison's lighting design.
Olney Theatre Center
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org