Steinbeck the onetime migrant and journalist informs Steinbeck the artist as a brutish reality becomes a knowing drama — still affecting in its details, if finally watery in its contrived, loudly broadcasted tragedy. Significantly, George and Lennie's partnership immediately arouses suspicion among the other hired hands. Even for Slim (a sure and compelling Chad Deverman), the ranch's gracious cowboy hero, two men traveling together is at the very least a source of wonder, so unexpected is the show of mutual support along the otherwise solitary, competitive labor circuit.
But when aging and maimed worker Candy (an excellent Gary Martinez) accepts the mercy killing of his beloved old dog, he and we know the operative social compact isn't much better: those who have only their usefulness to sell have no foothold when its gone. Candy accordingly latches onto George and Lennie's scheme, followed soon by another desperate outsider, African American worker Crooks (a wonderfully measured Charles Branklyn). It may prove a pipe dream, but the lure of escape from hopeless drudgery produces a powerful impetus to solidarity that is the play's enduring hope.
OF MICE AND MEN
Wed/25, 7:30pm; Thu/26-Sat/28, 8pm (also Sat/28, 2pm); Sun/29, 2pm, $19-$69
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro, Mtn. View