“…you owe it to yourself to catch this Hilberry production.”

Erman Jones as Lennie and Vanessa Sawson as Curley's Wife. Photo credit: Nikki Allen

‘Of Mice and Men’ at The Hilberry Theatre breathes new life into a classic.

Patty Nolan

Detroit Theater Examiner

John Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize winning novella about two migrant workers’ quest for the American Dream is one we have all grown up with.  Of Mice and Men has been required reading in most high school English programs for decades on end.  So, as we checked our personal Kleenex supply before walking into the Hilberry Theatre for play’s the opening night performance, it was hard to imagine that anyone there didn’t know how Of Mice and Men ends.

In fact, by the middle of Act One, we were already hearing sniffling a few rows back.

And yet …

As with any good tale, it’s all about the telling. The Hilberry cast, under the direction of Tony Schmitt, held the first-night audience spell bound with its understated but convincing representation of itinerant ranch workers in depression-era California.  Peter Prouty (George) and Erman Jones (Lennie) breathe new life into these iconic American characters. And they are ably supported by strong ensemble performances, led by fellow third-year company members Alan Ball as Candy, Jason Cabral as Curley, and Jordan Whalen as Slim.

In pre-show remarks, Of Mice and Men Director Tony Schmitt admitted to a strong affinity for Steinbeck, but added that people all have different ideas as to ‘what the story is really about.’

Schmitt’s directorial vision focused on the themes of isolation, the horror of being alone, and the innate need to connect with other people.  And indeed, this production helps us see the various barriers that serve to isolate the characters from each other – fear, pride, bigotry, jealousy – all the usual suspects.  Even the minimalist set, with its burlap sky and canvas mountains, seem to underscore the futility of friendship in such an unforgiving environment.

Scenic Design by Peter Schmidt, Lighting Design by Tom Schaeder, Photo credit: Nikki Allen

Ironically, the filial camaraderie between George and Lennie seems to inspire more conversation and confidences from the rest of the characters.  Sadly enough, this includes Curley’s ‘lonely’ wife.  And so it is that ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’

If you haven’t read Of Mice and Men since high school, or if you’ve never seen it performed live, you owe it to yourself to catch this Hilberry production. You’ll discover many new gems that you missed as a student. If you are the parent of teenagers, make an extra effort to take them to this show.

And here’s a bonus: Of Mice and Men is being paired with the Bonstelle Theatre’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird – another ‘must-read’ book for most American school kids.  Just contact the Hilberry box office and ask for ‘The American Literature Classics’ package to reserve tickets for both shows for modest price of one —  $25.

The play runs in rotating repertory until February 5, 2011. For more information, or to reserve tickets online, call the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 313-577-2972, online, or by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Ave. on the corner of Cass Ave. and Hancock.

You can find the original article here.


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