Friday, February 3, 2017

Of Mice and Men at Tacoma Little Theatre

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 2, 2017

from left: George (Mason Quinn), Curley’s wife (Margret Parobek), Crooks (Jack House, and Lennie (Chris James), photo by Niclas Olson
Tacoma Little Theatre continues an outstanding season with John Steinbeck’s classic tale, Of Mice and Men, directed by Niclas Olson, founder and managing artistic director of New Muses Theatre Company, and starring Mason Quinn as George and Chris James as Lennie. To be clear, this is not just an adaptation of Steinbeck’s novella. The play was also written by Steinbeck in 1937, the same year the book was published.

Set during the Great Depression, it tells the story of two migrant workers, George and Lennie, who go to work on a ranch owned by “the Boss” (Eric Cuestas-Thompson), who is never named, and his son, Curley (Derek Mesford), a despicable little strutting rooster of a man who picks on Lennie unmercifully. Lennie is a giant who never fights back. He is intellectually challenged. All he wants to do is pet soft things such as velvet and furry animals — mostly mice, which he accidentally kills because he doesn’t know his strength. George’s dream is to someday get a stake and own a little farm with a garden and some animals, including rabbits; Lennie’s dream is to tend the rabbits.

Curley’s wife (Margret Parobek), befriends Lennie with tragic results.

I can’t imagine a more perfect actor to play the part of Lennie than James. He fits the part physically and acts with confidence. His slow, hesitant and well-articulated speech and his gentle but clumsy movements bring the character to life. When he gets mad at Crooks (Jack House) for saying something not nice about George, and when he fights with Curley, he is explosive and frightening. If it had not said so in the program, I would have never believed that he has not acted since his youth. Of Mice and Men is his theatrical debut.

Quinn is a veteran actor, having performed in such shows as The Great Gatsby, The Rainmaker and A Few Good Men. He is outstanding as George.

Mesford, another veteran of many stage appearances, is terrific. He makes audiences hate Curley, as they should.

Curley’s wife is often depicted as a vixen. George calls her a tramp, and other ranch hands call her “tart” and “bitch.” Steinbeck wrote in a letter to Claire Luce, who played the part of Curley’s wife in the first stage version, “she is not a floozy. …She is afraid of everyone in the world.” That is how Parobek plays her — as a lonely and fearful young woman who longs for human connection. Parobek plays her as a woman who is much more complex that she appears.

Other actors who shine in this production are House, Roger Iverson as Candy, and Jacob Tice as Slim.

Blake R. York does his usual outstanding job of set designing. The walls of the bunkhouse and barn made of moveable wooden slats are highly effective, as is Olson’s lighting.

Of Mice and Men, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, special school matinee Jan. 26, Jan. 20-Feb. 5, $24 adults, $22 seniors /Students/Military, $20 12 and younger, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma, 253.272.2281,

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