Monday, January 28, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 80



'Of Mice and Men' revisited at Alley Theatre

By Ken Fountain
Senior Staff Writer

John Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men is one of the most celebrated classics of American literature. It is so revered, in fact, that Houston audiences have the chance to see two onstage versions in the coming weeks. Beginning Feb. 1, Houston Grand Opera offers the operatic adaptation of the tale by contemporary composer Carlisle Floyd.

Jim Caldwell/Courtesy of the Alley Theatre

Shelley Calene-Black and David Rainey appear in a pivotal scene in the Alley Theatre's production of John Steinbeck's classic tale Of Mice and Men, which runs through Feb. 17 on the Neuhaus Arena Stage.

Steinbeck's own stage version (co-written by actor/director George S. Kaufman) opened Wednesday as the first production on the newly renovated Neuhaus Arena Stage, which
was destroyed last year by the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Allison. It's a fitting choice, since one of the story's central themes is man's continuing search for hope in the face of

Originally published in 1936 at the height of the Great Depression, Steinbeck's deceptively simple story offers an expansive glimpse of that terrible time. It is told through the lens
of the friendship of two itinerant farm workers in 1930s California.

George Milton and Lennie Small are a study in contrasts. George, keen-minded and wiry-framed, and Lennie, slow-witted and massive, have traveled together for years. George,
although frequently exasperated by Lennie's forgetfulness and tendency to inadvertently get into trouble, nonetheless feels a special responsibility toward him. Lennie has a
childlike sense of wonder and love of small animals, but unfortunately doesn't know his own strength.

As the play opens, George and Lennie have just escaped some unpleasant business in Northern California and are headed to another dead-end job on a ranch, where they hope
to scrape up enough money to buy their own farm.

As soon as they arrive, their interactions with the ranch boss's family and the other ranch hands portend the futility of George and Lennie's "best-laid schemes." Undercurrents of
jealousy and rage threaten to shatter the seemingly idyllic pastoral setting in sudden explosions of violence.

Even audience members who are well acquainted with the story, either through the book or its several film adaptations, will find something new in this production, directed by
longtime Alley acting company member James Black.

Although it is completely faithful to Steinbeck's vision, new dynamics are created through the casting of black actors in the lead roles, as well as several of the secondary ones.
George and Lennie have traditionally been portrayed as white. Making them African-American, especially in their time and place, adds an entirely new tension to the scenes
involving the boss's temperamental son Curly and his overly flirtatious wife.

The actors in the production are uniformly first-rate. K. Todd Freeman brings just the right mix of world-weariness and hopefulness to George, a man burdened 

by an unfortunate combination of intelligence, hard luck and loyalty. David Rainey as Lennie is remarkable in portraying the subtle shifts of mood beneath the character's
simple-minded exterior.

Black's staging of the production makes excellent use of the intimate Neuhaus space. Audience members, seated on all four sides of the central stage, are completely drawn into
this tale of small people whose small dreams exceed their grasp, and who reach for each other in the face of the loneliness and cruelty of the wide world.

Showtimes are Tuesdays through Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $40 and $45, and are available at the box office or online at Groups of 10 or more can purchase discount tickets by calling (713) 228-9341, ext.

Of Mice and Men

**** (out f five stars)

Director: James Black

Alley Theatre, Nehaus Arena Stage

615 Texas Ave.

Send comments to

To contact the Shobiz Section Editor, click the e-mail link at the end of this article.

To contact other members of 
The Daily Cougar Online staff, 


Advertise in The Daily Cougar

Student Publications
University of Houston
151C Communication Bldg
Houston, Texas 77204-4015

©2005, Student Publications. All rights reserved.
Permissions/Web Use Policy


Last upMonday, January 28, 2002:

Visit The Daily Cougar