The Power of Steinbeck is Visible at Westport Country Playhouse By June S. April
Like the great writer Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck's stories translate with equal power on the screen or on the stage. Each medium offers a different "perspective," but the story remains basically the same. However, for some of us, a stronger impact can be felt by one, over the other venues.
So it was for this critic with the current production at the Westport Country Playhouse with "Of Mice and Men." The original black and white movie version made in 1939 made a profound impression on my mind.
Reading Steinbeck's book as a teenager and then watching this movie with Lon Chaney, Jr. as Lenny some-how embedded that image and it was almost impossible to "accept" the fine acting job by Mark Mineart without superimposing Chaney's face there before me, even some 40 years later.
There were no such issues with the other actors. Brian Hutchinson as George, did not recreate any flashbacks to Burgess Meredith, nor did Rafael Sardina bring comparison to Bob Steele as the high-strung
and jealous Curly. As Curly's seductive and frustrated wife, Betsy Morgan's portrayal was even more of a temptress than the cinematic version. Kene Holiday, as the disfigured Crooks was powerful and so credible in that role.
The set design by Michael Yeargan is outstanding and brings the audience into the environments of the barn and the California fields so well that one can almost smell the air, plants, sweaty bodies. With the talents of lighting designer Robert Wierzel and sound design (original music, too) by John Gromada thisproduction was "sensorially" heightened.
Playing through November 1, "Of Mice and Men" is time well-spent at the theatre, but it would also be interesting to go and get the movie versions.