Paradise lost: ‘Of Mice and Men’ on Pit and Balcony’s stage

By Josie Norris, editor-in-chief.

SAGINAW – Pit and Balcony has brought the classic story of paradise lost in “Of Mice and Men” to its stage – and the story is still relevant to audiences today.

It is the midst of the Great Depression, migrant workers George, the quick-witted friend and guardian of Lennie, a large man with the mind of a small boy, find themselves on a Southern California ranch where trouble seems to keep following the pair. With the “handy” boss’s son with a chip on his shoulder keeping a close eye on Lennie, George must hold on tight to the dream of living off of the fat of his own land that he and Lennie hope to find. When dreams of better lives collide and tragedy strikes, George must make the ultimate choice to protect Lennie.

Director William Kircher made the decision to keep all of the original language written by John Steinbeck in 1937. “I wanted the audience to see where we were as a society in terms of racism and segregation – to see where we are today,” Kircher writes in the director’s note. As a result, some language may be offensive and not for young audiences, but as Kircher said, it does point out how far we have come, in some cases, as a society, but definitely still have our work cut out for us.

The details of the production really impressed me. The sets were painted beautifully and dressed very well. The attention to detail was not lost on me at all. The ambient sound that played in the background transported me to the ranch and lighting changes to depict the passage of time were also very well done.

The relationship between George and Lennie is a difficult one to play, but with actor Kale Shafer as George, the switch from protector to friend of Lennie, played by Chris Gouin, was seamless. The two had a great chemistry and their final scene together was heartbreaking to watch. Another standout was Amy Spadafore Loose as Curley’s Wife. Spadafore Loose brought a humanness and loneliness to the character who is typically played as not more than a “tart” in the words of the play.

As with all theatrical oeuvres, this production of Steinbeck’s classic tale of finding a better life and the American Dream still speaks today. While we may not be migrant workers on a ranch, humans still long for a better life and community which is at the heart of the story of “Of Mice and Men.”

“Of Mice and Men” performances are March 31 and April 1 at 7:30 p.m. and April 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets are available online at pitandbalconytheatre.com or via telephone at (989) 754-6587.

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