By: John Appeldorn
John Steinbeck’s written works, in their power and simplicity, often seem to beg for stage or screen adaptation.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company brought Steinbeck’s prose to life in its most recent production of “Of Mice and Men.”
Under the direction of Drew Fracher, the cast and crew presented a careful and touching interpretation of Steinbeck’s novella, depicting well the struggle for family and future stability.
“Of Mice and Men” tells the story of George Milton (Jeremy Dubin) and the cognitively disabled Lenny Small (Jim Hopkins), two migrant ranch workers who work their way from farm to farm across the California countryside.
The acting pair of Dubin and Hopkins was dynamic from the show’s opening scene, showing both the physical and emotional differences in the lead characters. Hopkins in particular stood out in his portrayal of the honest and endearing Lenny.
In addition, notable performances from Justin McCombs (Slim) and Joneal Joplin (Candy) built on the vigor of Dubin and Hopkins’ interaction.
The speed and timing was deliberate, just as one would expect in a Steinbeck novel, but did not weaken the overall sequence of action.
For the most part, the dialogue remained true to the novella’s actual text, with a few changes in the frequency of select words.
The repeated use of silence and pausing also contributed to the suspenseful and reflective nature of the play.
By far one of the more impressive features was the lighting, which through gradual changing color was the main indicator of both the passage of time and mood.
The simple and rustic set (made up almost entirely of barn doors and wooden fences) and scene changes, accompanied by country blues, contributed well to the image and ambience of the lonely American West.
This production is concerned largely with the central conflict of the work.
In some ways, it leaves the ending up to interpretation, in particular, Milton’s actions following Lenny’s death.
Nonetheless, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company portrays Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” with a steady hand, giving great care to the dialogue and tragic relationships amongst the characters.
Shows run until Nov. 10. More information about performers and performances can be found at http://www.cincyshakes.com.