Of Mice and Men

“We’ll raise enough money to buy a small farm with a vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch,” George intones in a far-off voice. “It’ll be beautiful, Lennie, just you wait and see. You and me and our own farm. We’ll be our own bosses, and we’ll work for ourselves, and no one will tell us what to do.”

“And the bunnies,” Lennie reminds him. “I get to take care of the bunnies!” The rabbit hutch is the only detail of the plan that the slow-thinking Lennie consistently remembers.

The Chautauqua Playhouse tackles yet another American classic in the theatrical version of the novel Of Mice and Men, written by 1962 Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, which will play through Nov. 25 at the popular theater.

“Bill Rogers from Chautauqua Playhouse called with the offer to do the play as part of their season, and I said sure without hesitation,” says director Bob Irvin, a theatrical mainstay for the past 30 years.

Of Mice and Men stars local actors Raymond Keller and Joe Harte as the lead characters, George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant workers, who have landed near Soledad, Calif., during the Depression. They are on their way to a nearby ranch after escaping from a farm near Weed, where Lennie, a mentally deficient yet docile man, was wrongly accused of rape when he touched a woman to feel her soft dress.

“It’s one of those stories people know, because the relationship of George and Lennie has been exploited into all different kinds of situations, even to cartoons,” Irvin says. “And it’s a chance for the audience to go back to the basics and see what Steinbeck really put down on paper and to see what he wrote. There’s always relevance in John Steinbeck. The brilliance in which [the play] is written makes it more than just a story of 1930s America, because there is such a relevance in how we treat each other and see each other. The characters are very accessible, the way he takes them from what they seem to be, to a deeper truth inside of them. He does give you a way to look and think about people past the basic facade of what we think we see.

Of Mice and Men is an American classic, and many classics get shelved for a while," says Irvin. "Then every 10 or 15 years, they are pulled out of the hopper and looked at again. These are brilliant plays, and they do have to come around again. It’s a wonderful experience for the actors and for the audience."