This past Monday was the birthday of the well known Scottish poet, Robert Burns, which was a fitting time for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater to bring back the well-loved classic, Of Mice and Men, because the title was inspired by a line from Burns' poem, To a Mouse:
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry
One of the most celebrated works in American Literature, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a tale of true friendship, hardship and the American Dream. Written in 1937, in the depths of the Great Depression, it is a first hand look at what life was like for migrant workers in California. I say "first hand" because Steinbeck, himself, worked as a "bindlestiff" in the very same county in California that the book takes place.
Though it is required reading for most American highschoolers, many don't realize that the book is almost autobiographical. In fact, Lenny, the mentally-challenged friend of George, was a real person, who really did commit a murder (though it was not a woman, and not so much of an accident), and spent the rest of his life in an asylum in California. The brutality and tragic nature of the story often leaves a bad impression on young readers; however, whatever your impression of the story was, seeing it -- as opposed to reading it -- will set you straight.
Directed by Mark Clements, whose previous production of the play in Philadelphia won 8 Barrymore Awards (including one for Best Production), Of Mice and Men features some of Milwaukee's favorite actors. Jonathan Wainwright, seen most recently as Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol, is George, while Scott Greer makes a remarkable Milwaukee debut as Lennie, the role he played in the Philadelphia production. Milwaukee's own, James Pickering and Jonathan Gillard Daly are excellent as Candy and the Boss, respectively. Rep regular, Kelley Faulkner, plays Curley's wife, with Bernard Balbot as Curley. Chike Johnson, who was Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol, is fantastic as Crooks. New to The Rep are James D. Farruggio, as Slim, Sean Patrick Fawcett, as Carlson, and Riley O'Toole, as Whit.
Of Mice and Men is a story that was born to be a play; The Rep's production will bring to light Steinbeck's intent: "If you understand each other, you will be kind to each other."
Of Mice and Men runs now through February 21st at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells Street, Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased online at www.milwaukeerep.com, or by calling the Ticket Office at 414-224-9490