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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Of Mice and Men

Also see Susan's review of A Lesson Before Dying

Of Mice and Men
Christopher Lane and Richard Pilcher
The Olney Theatre Center production of Of Mice and Men is a solid piece of work, a straightforward reading of John Steinbeck's 1937 play about two itinerant farmhands making their way in California during the Depression. The incisive performances of the two lead actors are what raises this production above the ordinary.

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
Of Mice and Men
September 26th October 28th
By John Steinbeck
George: Richard Pilcher
Lennie: Christopher Lane
Candy: John Dow
Curley: Carlos Candelario
Curley's Wife: Margo Seibert
Slim: Jeff Allin
Carlson: Robert Leembruggen
Whit: R. Scott Williams
Crooks: Keith N. Johnson
Directed by Alan Wade
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD

Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org


Photo: Stan Barouh


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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