Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
Coming from New York City, home of some of the best theater in the world, makes you sometimes doubt whether you can see great theater anywhere else. This was my notion as I went to see Chenango River Theater’s production of “Of Mice and Men.” However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my notion was false. CRT in Greene offers up a stunning production of this classic play.
Set in an agricultural valley in Northern California, “Of Mice and Men” explores the relationship between two men: Lennie, the developmentallychallented but kind-hearted bull, and George, his caretaker. Throughout the play we learn more intimate details about the special friendship these two men share and their love for each other. The bond they share makes for a heart-wrenching climax at the end of the play.
The cast, directed by Bill Lelbach, portrays this story with honesty and conviction. Lelbach understands the intricate details of this play and conveys them well. There were strong performaces all around, but I must mention a few that stand out. Ted Nappi, as Lennie, is world class. His connection to his character is palpable and profound, making him mesmerizing to watch. He takes you on Lennie’s journey with so much honesty that you fall in love with him, which is what this play requires. He does this with great skill. Jack Harris (George) also deserves praise as, with great heart, he plays the tough country man with a sensitive side. His love for Lennie grows as the play unfolds, thereby making his decision at the end of the play heart-breaking. He takes the audience on an insightful journey of what it must be like to care for a disabled person and the sacrifices one makes in doing so. Superb!
Michael Arcesi (Candy) is flawless. He plays this simple man with simple desires extraordinarily. When his dog gets put to sleep, Arcesi’s distraught reaction is convincing and gut-wrenching. I could not take my eye off him whenever he was on stage! I must also mention Bergin Michaels, who plays Crooks, a worker on the ranch. He provides great comic moments that are much needed in this otherwise heavy play. He brings great life to a smaller role and serves the play greatly.
I was left pondering whether George was really attracted to Curley’s wife. Curley is the son of the boss, and his wife is all too flirtatious with the ranch hands. There seemed to be some sexual tension between her and George, but I wasn’t sure if it was intended or not. I was a little confused about the nature of their relationship and wish it was more fleshed out and specific.
Otherwise, this production is impressive. I highly recommend going to see this incredible production.
(Editor’s note: “Of Mice and Men” is the final production of CRT’s season. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays through Oct. 24. Details: Visit www.chenangorivertheatre.org.)