Of Mice and Men: Heartbreaking production should not be missed

AJ Meijer as "Lennie" and Jos Viramontes as "George" in OF MICE AND MEN at TheatreWorks. Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

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TheatreWorks productions are new to Metblogs, but this won’t be the last time we review one of their outstanding productions.  I was lucky enough to be invited to review their current show, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and was thoroughly impressed.

 

AJ Meijer as "Lennie," Jos Viramontes as "George," and Lena Hart as "Curley's wife" in OF MICE AND MEN at TheatreWorks. Photo credit: Tracy Martin

I was especially excited to see Of Mice and Men, as it’s one of my favorite stories by Steinbeck.  It is the emotional tale of George, a migrant farmworker, and his hardworking but mentally challenged buddy Lenny, who just likes to rub his fingers against soft things:  a swatch of luxurious velvet, a woman’s silky hair, a dead mouse he found on the side of the road…

 

George and Lenny are on a journey to their next job in Soledad, and when they meet the resident group of farm workers and their dogs, everyone’s lives are about to change.  This is not a happy story, but it is a most emotional, sympathetic and thought provoking tale about love and companionship, with both animals and humans, and what it means to actually be in charge of your partner’s care.  As far as I can remember the play is pretty faithful to Steinbeck’s story, which is very short, and if you have not read the book before I highly recommend it.

 

Gary Martinez as "Candy" and AJ Meijer as "Lennie" in OF MICE AND MEN at TheatreWorks. Photo credit: Tracy Martin

I had never seen the show performed live before but I was sure it was going to be an amazing production and I was right.  TheatreWorks raises it to an even higher level with their talented cast.   Charles Branklyn brings a truthful cantankerousness to the marginalized Crooks, who, as a black man, must live in the barn away from the other workers.  Gary S. Martinez is an amazingly sympathetic Candy, who is aware that his end of days is coming, but not soon enough.  And the two stars of the show are more than capable of carrying the entire production.  Jos Viramontes is the ever faithful George, who takes seriously the responsibility of caring for his friend Lenny, played by AJ Meijer.  Lenny is an extremely important character to cast, as it must be made clear to the audience both his weaknesses and his utmost strength, and those who play the part often (and should) get a lot of attention.  But George is also not a simple character to play, and Viramontes makes it clear his love for his friend so that George’s decision at the end of the play is understandable and accepted by the audience.  Viramontes and Meijer are both spectacular.

 

The show plays through April 29 and is well worth the price of the tickets (ranging from $19 – $69).  It is not a show fit for younger children, but is a great one for teens.  I have a feeling this show is going to garner a lot of nominations at the end of the year, and likely many wins as well.  I wholeheartedly recommend you see this production.  I absolutely look forward to many more shows from TheatreWorks in the future.

 

Of Mice and Men
TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
650 463-1960

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