I spent the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend visiting Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor to see John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” What a spectacular show!
It is part of the theater’s Literature Live! program that brings good literature to Long Island students as part of the “Free Student Ticket Initiative.” I went with my grandchildren, Myla and Leonardo Dougherty, and their grandmother Poppy Johnson from Greenport.
The 90-minute show had three acts and no intermission. The story takes place on a ranch in the Salinas Valley in California during the 1930s. This work, part of the canon of American literature taught to high school students, was first written as a novella by Steinbeck and then crafted into a play by the author in 1938.
It was very appropriate for this play to be performed in Sag Harbor, a village Steinbeck called home in the 50s and 60s. Some people say he even got inspiration for his novel, “Winter of Our Discontent,” during his time there. Canio’s Books had a display in the theater lobby of Steinbeck’s works.
The actor Preston Truman Boyd never let up on his great portrayal of large, strong and challenged Lennie. He was able to get Lennie’s innocence across very well. But Lennie’s innocence cannot control his strength. That’s why when he finds baby mice to pet, he winds up crushing them.
George, played by Joe Pallister is, in a sense, Lennie’s handler. He gets Lennie out of trouble and protects him from those who would take advantage of him. He urges Lennie not to say anything as they go to their new job at the ranch with a new boss.
The boss’s son, Curley, played by Jon Kovach, picks on Lennie when he’s angry about his wife — who is referred to as a tart — for visiting the bunkhouse. He smells her perfume and attacks Lennie. Lennie exercises great restraint but finally crushes Curley’s hand.
George sticks with Lennie. He gives him a dream to hold on to: a small farm with rabbits, a cow and chickens. A dream that could become reality.
But it’s not to be.
Lennie is in the barn with his dead puppy. He had pet the dog too hard and snapped his fingers at it after it nipped his finger. He’s embarrassed and tries to hide the puppy when Curley’s wife comes in.
She has a valise and is dressed for travel. She opens up to Lennie, revealing her non-tart-like past and her intention to leave Curley.
Curley’s wife tells Lennie she likes him because he listens to her. She talks about liking nice soft things. She runs her fingers through her hair and tells Lennie to feel its softness. Lennie strokes it a bit too hard, she starts to scream and he quiets her by wringing her neck. She’s dead.
Georgia Warner delivered this role very well with sincerity and compassion.
Lennie runs away to a safe spot. George finds him after leaving the posse looking for Lennie. George does what he believes is best to protect Lennie.
The cast was rounded out by Islander Terry Brockbank (Candy), Josh Gladstone (Boss), J. Stephen Brantley (Slim), William Sturek (Carlson), Sawyer Spielberg (Whit) and Chauncey Thomas (Crooks).
A great afternoon!