Press Release by John Hankins
The story "Of Mice and Men" grows and unfolds like the harvests in the verdant hills of California farms, the workplace of workers George and Lennie who dream of a better life than dead-end dusty work for chump change.
John Steinbeck's brilliant novel - borne from his own experience -- was adapted into this play while still on the best seller list, and it won the highest honor of its time. Now it's playing at Ojai ACT from Aug. 29 - Sept. 21, an historic classic that fits right in with the Ojai Art Center's 75th anniversary year.
"Steinbeck really had his hand on the pulse of humanity," said Director Richard Kuhlman whose own experience brings extra heart to the play. Kuhlman was steeped in the lore and soul of the Nobel Prize winning author when he directed plays at the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, including "Of Mice and Men."
From that familiarity, Kuhlman and the cast have crafted an uplifting and unique take
on this "great tragic tale," telling it as "a band of brothers story, it's very uplifting."
Kuhlman's excitement about presenting this classic also comes from what he describes as "a really strong cast overall - they're on top of it."
At that top is veteran actor Ron Feltner as the steady and intelligent George, in contrast with his
best friend and companion, the physically powerful and dim-witted Lennie, played by the Jester's Nigel Chisholm.
The two arrive at a new ranch and meet a handful of characters: old Candy (Doug Friedlander) and his old dog (Sascha Vivian), the mean-spirited owner's son Curley (David Stewart) and his good-looking lonely wife (Jessi May Stevenson).
Their fellow workers -- who are all drawn into George retelling the vision of having their own farm -- include the outcast Crooks (Ezra Ells), Slim the mule driver (Shayne Bourbon), the complainer Carlson (John Valenzuela), and ranch hand Whit (Buddy Wilds). In a twist on casting, the Boss is played by a woman (Susan Franzblau).
The play is produced by C
helsea Vivian whose dog Sascha plays a prominent role as Candy's dying mutt. Neva Williams designed the set on the heels of her recent "Carousel" success and Janna Valenzuela is in charge of making all the costumes fit the 1930s era.
Other important tasks are lighting design shared by Vivian and Williams and sound by Franzblau and Kuhlman.
Photography by Tom Moore
"Of Mice and Men" is at Ojai ACT, 113 S. Montgomery St.; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 general, $15 for seniors and Art Center members and $10 for students and groups of six or more.