Tonight I watched a stage production of Of Mice and Men with Jeans. It’s one of my favorite novellas; in it, John Steinbeck really captured a perfect balance of humor and pathos. I think it’s the perfect representation of the power of the American Dream, as well as the brutal reality of the world – we can’t all live in a dream.
This production did justice to the story in every way. The actors were superb – just perfect in their roles. George was rough with Lennie, but in a loving way. You knew that he really cared for this poor, broken friend of his, and that he was truly doing his best to keep the two of them going. I mean, the character has such a stressful life, shepherding this big man-child through the world. One gets the impression that if he wasn’t saddled with the responsibility of Lennie, George would have established himself somewhere. He wouldn’t be rich or anything, but he’d probably have a wife and I reckon he’d have a steady job of some sort. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’d be just as lost as the other migrant workers he encounters; he’d blow his money every week on alcohol and whores just as they do. Maybe having Lennie is what gives him a sort of grounding in his life; it’s because of Lennie that he’s able to be a better sort of man. So, is Lennie George’s burden or salvation? Maybe both. At any rate, Jos Viramontes, the actor who plays George, makes him a likeable, complex man.
AJ Meijer plays Lennie, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. He just captures that childlike innocence of Lennie perfectly; he’s sweet, loyal and so eager to please George. That fixation with soft things – yeah, it’s a little creepy. It’s only because Lennie is so physically powerful that he becomes such a problem; if he had been a smaller, weaker man then his mental frailty wouldn’t have mattered quite so much. George would be able to take care of him (because they wouldn’t be on the run quite so much) and things would be peaches and cream. Well, maybe not. My point is that the actor does an excellent job of making Lennie believable and sympathetic.
At the end of the play, I was crying my eyes out. It was performed so well, and of course Steinbeck’s story is excellent, so how could I not be swept away in it?