Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Directed by Bill Dow
Playhouse Theatre: Sept 20th - Oct 16th
by Frank Scott
The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre opened its season with this classic 20th century piece by American literary legend John Steinbeck. It is an epic tale of two migrant workers during the great depression, an emotional story that speaks for society's forgotten people: the less fortunate, the homeless. Although written in 1937, I couldn't help but draw parallels to today's forgotten society.
Prior to the performance, I stood by the front doors and watched the patrons gather. Two street people also stood in the crowd begging for $9.50, the amount needed for a night in a flophouse. One of the two was stricken with Cerebral Palsy. Only I and one other gave them money. Most of the patrons, especially the ones decked out in their "look at me" coolest clothing, completely ignored them and wouldn't even give eye contact.
Not unlike the street people mentioned above, George and Lennie travel from farm to farm looking for work, dreaming of living off the fat of the land. George (Tom McBeth) is Lennie's caregiver-- the worrier, the planner, constantly dreaming of owning a place of his own, a place to call home. Lennie (Grant Linneburg) is the big and strong simpleton , the child in a giant's body, the pure, the innocent, who just wants to do good and pet soft things. Tom McBeth's and Grant Linneburg's performances took the audience below the surface of George and Lennie's stereotype to let us see their loneliness and despair.
On the surface every character in the play appears to be a stereotype loser. There is Crooks, the nigger; Curley, the boss's son; Curley's wife, the slut; Candy, the one-handed Stable Buck; and a host of other Bindle Stiffs. Below the surface and society labels we see friendship, love, commitment, sacrifice--things that make the human spirit soar.
Bill Dow, Director, and his design team of Helen Jarvis, Gerald King, and John Mann did a marvelous thing with this production. With the stage setting stretching from wall to wall, completely open with minimal objects, and with the soundscape and lighting techniques used, the emotion and pure power of this play lived in the only place it could: the performers and the audience. Bravo!