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Of Mice And Men
Three River Theatre

Earl Arts Centre

November 10th, 2021

John Steinbeck’s classic novella-turned-play Of Mice and Men is an emotional, thought-provoking story that explores the desire to follow your dreams through a cast of characters who are struggling to follow their own. Touching upon subjects highly discussed today— such as racism, sexism, ableism and poverty— Three River Theatre’s production of the play is a poignant but necessary reminder of the past and how hope for the future is not enough for some to avoid tragedy.

Of Mice and Men follows George and Lennie, two landless workers who are trying their best to stay out of trouble and raise enough money for a property of their own. When starting a new job, George is desperate to protect Lennie, who has some intellectual challenges and above-average strength, from those who may misunderstand his differences. Soon follows a tragic string of events resulting from every character’s desire for independence, ultimately ending in a tragedy that leaves an engaged audience deep in thought.

George (played by Travis Hennessy) and Lennie (played by Cameron Hindrum) have a connection onstage that compels you to lean in further to their story. George’s frustration at Lennie, that is clearly rooted in a deep, protective love for him, feels achingly real. The audience can’t help but feel sympathy for George as he is undoubtedly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Lennie’s childlike naivety is believable and moving, with Cameron’s excellent comedic timing being the humourous relief this confronting show needed. Together, the pair work together to create a nuanced connection between their characters that makes the third act of the play ever-more devastating.

The collection of side characters in Of Mice and Men draw attention to the role of intersectionality in the struggle for independence, with many character’s marginalisations and desires overlapping with one another. The stand outs here are Candy (played by Michael Edgar), Curley’s Wife (played by Eleanore Knox) and Crooks (played by Thanalert Ellen), who authentically highlight their character’s personal struggle for independence in the face of oppression. The way these characters argue with one another, unaware that they are all motivated by similar desires, makes the performance an engaging and complex portrayal of human behaviour in the face of adversity that echoes well into the 21st century.

Director Stan Gottschalk’s decision to include the radio chorus, The New Holland Honey Eaters, throughout the play felt fitting. The group, with their impressive collection of instruments and harmonies, drew the performance together by filling the space during scene transitions and re-engaging the audience at the top of each act.

Gottschalk’s commitment to cohesiveness in his directing is further evident in how the actor’s movements are reflective of their character’s personalities. For example, Curley’s Wife moving quickly around the stage suited her abrasiveness, whilst Lennie’s slow movements and long periods of standing still were apt of his timidness.

The cast were committed to producing believable American accents consistently throughout the show, adding depth to the 1930’s American setting. However, there were a few moments where the use of accents was so proficient that dialogue was lost to the audience. This was a minor issue though and another testament to the cast’s dedication to their roles.

With classic plays such as Of Mice and Men, less is definitely more when approaching the technical design elements. The simplistic lighting design added detail to the performance without drawing attention away from the action. The sound design, mostly comprised of ambient soundscapes and the occasional sound effect, added another dimension to the performance. The set design was creative but not overwhelming and the costume design felt appropriate for the time period and the character’s personalities (especially Curley’s Wife’s glaringly red heels). I also appreciated how Candy’s old dog was played by a real old dog (Ollie Hindrum). This old fella, although a little shaky on his feet, was a delightful addition to the performance.

Despite the pain and tragedy that befalls the characters of this play, there is an under-arching message of hope in their stories as well. In today’s world, where issues such as anti-racism, gender equality and disability rights are more important than ever but still have a long way to go, Of Mice and Men is a reminder that independence is a desire all human beings share no matter their circumstances. Three River Theatre’s production will remind you to think of others, dream big and chase your desires, even in the face of hardship.

Review by Ruby Stevenson

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