“Of Mice and Men” opened Feb. 15 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. The play was written in 1937 about two traveling farm workers in Depression-era California.
Director Ablan Roblin has an excellent cast of nine actors and one actress. The two main characters are traveling from farm to farm getting work. George is played very well by Josh Peyton and his mentally challenged friend Lennie is played by Tony Schick. Schick’s performance is memorable.
The main feature of the show is the human relationship between Lennie and George. The farm hands can’t understand why George has this connection with the mentally challenged Lennie. George who gets frustrated with Lennie always is there for him. George cares and does everything to keep Lennie safe.
These two have a remarkable relationship. George gets upset because Lennie is supposed to listen to George and Lennie doesn’t. That gets Lennie in trouble and forces the pair to go from town to town. Lennie likes soft things like rabbits, women and puppies. He doesn’t mean to get in trouble, but he doesn’t realize his strength.
The two migrant workers have a dream of owning their own land. George has promised Lennie he can have rabbits on their dream farm. They talk about their dream all the time. Dreams don’t always come true though. It keeps the two working very hard.
The supporting cast is great. Dennis Collins is fantastic as Candy, a farm worker who has been at that farm for a long time. Candy also has an old dog played by Anna. When the actors gathered in the lobby after the show, the line to meet the dog was just as long as the line to meet the actors. The dog plays an important part in the play.
Steve Catron plays Curley. He is the boss’ son and is married. He is obsessed with keeping his wife under control and away from the farm workers. She is Mallory Vallier and is gorgeous. Her character creates a lot of friction with Curley. Mallory is very good as the farm lady who wants to be social with the workers. Curley tries to keep her isolated and he is not very likable. He plays his character very well.
Nick Zadina plays Slim, a farm hand who is really good as the cool farm hand. He is a hard-nosed worker. Michael Leamen plays Carlson, Benjamin Battafarano plays Whit, the boss of the farm is Don Keelan-White. Everyone is good in their parts. This show has great characters.
There is one black man in the cast and his name is Crooks. He is not allowed to live in the bunkhouse with the other farm hands. It is the Depression and integration is decades in the future. Donte Plunkett is good as the black man who, back in the ’30s, was called another name. His character has understood his place in the world.
There are so many good things about this show. The sets and lighting by Jim Othuse are amazing. The realistic wood bunkhouse is seen from different angles. It looks like a bunkhouse from the Depression era.
Kevin Barratt is the fight director and has created very realistic fight scenes. There is even intermission music created by the Belles. The country music duo is based in Omaha and Nashville. Luke Esola is the very important Stage Manager. The period costumes are by Amanda Fehlner. The show even has a music composer in Timothy Vallier. The sound design by John Gibilisco is really good.
“Of Mice and Men” at the Howard Drew Theatre is a remarkable production. It is a solid performance of John Steinbeck’s classic. It is a look back into the Depression and the difficult life of the migrant farmers in California.
The show runs Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through March 17. Ticket prices for adults are $40 to $48. Prices may vary by performance. Student prices are $24. Go to the Playhouse box office at 6915 Cass St. in Omaha. The box office can be reached by calling 402-553-0800.