OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck, directed by Dennis Garnhum (CanStage/Theatre Calgary). At the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). To November 11. $20-$95, Monday pwyc and some rush. 416-368-3110. See Continuing, page XX. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
A classic text, good actors, an im- pressive design. What's missing in CanStage 's Of Mice And Men is good direction.
John Steinbeck 's tale of two Depression-era drifters has the inexorable feel of Greek tragedy. George ( Shaun Smyth ) acts as caregiving parent to the simple, powerful, sometimes fearful Lennie ( Ashley Wright ), who has trouble remembering what he's told and loves the feel of soft things.
Steinbeck's simple narrative about disappointed dreams of freedom, soap bubbles that are too easily burst, can't fail to move us. Thrown into a tense work situation aggravated by the jealousy of the boss's son Curley ( Benjamin Clost ) over his wife ( Lisa Norton ), Lennie and George face inevitable disaster.
The cast is strong, with a warmth between Smyth and Wright that anchors the piece. Clost creates real sparks with Smyth, while Norton reveals her character's aching need for companionship. David LeReaney , Sterling Jarvis , John Kirkpatrick and John Wright also have some nice moments.
John Jenkins and Allan Stichbury 's hay-and-barnboard design, lit by Kevin Lamotte , has its own magic.
But Dennis Garnhum 's direction is sluggish and uninvolving, especially in the group scenes.
Too often he relies on staging pictures rather than getting to a scene's heart.
The Vivaldi he chooses as scene-change music is jarring, and his attempts to evoke the larger humanity of the story often fall flat.
What's memorable here comes from the actors, who work without a larger vision that might have tied their work into a resonant whole.