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Signs of the Times in American Players Theatre's 'Of Mice and Men'

Aug. 10, 2011
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There's something to be said for literate audience members, and American Players Theatre could have used more of them for Saturday's opening night of Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck's heartbreaking tale of friendship and devotion set during America's Great Depression.

A near constant stream of first-act chuckles over the struggles of migrants George (Jim DeVita) and Lennie (Brian Mani), a man-child who falls victim to his own unbridled strength, indicated that many didn't know where the tragedy would eventually lead. Unfortunately, Steinbeck's own colloquial period dialogue, oft repeated to indicate the pair's longing for a ranch of their own, may have contributed to audience misunderstandings of the play's intent.

Director Kate Buckley draws strong performances from her cast, particularly Mani and Paul Bentzen as Candy, the one-handed aging ranch hand who embraces the dream with even more desperation than the pair themselves. As the physically deformed stable buck Crooks, La Shawn Banks demonstrates how far and effectively his characterizations can stretch.

Parallels to today's economy make Steinbeck's play an obvious choice this season, but the longings for freedom, financial stability and personal dignity in an unforgiving world make the themes of the work universal to every time and place.

Of Mice and Men continues through Oct. 1 at APT's Up-The-Hill Theatre in Spring Green.


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