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Tuesday, February 11, 2014


77 years ago, Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” was published. Telling the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in search of work during the Great Depression in California. It is based on Steinbeck’s own experiences in the 1920’s. its title comes from a Robert Burns poem, “To A Mouse,” which contains this ominous line: “The best laid schemes of mice and men / often go awry.”The 1937 Broadway stage production of “Of Mice and Men,” was written by Steinbeck himself. The book, in fact, was written by Steinbeck as a kind of hybrid between a novel and a play, with the story divided into three acts consisting of two chapters each, and was intended to work both as a literary and theatrical text.

Director Michael Dempsey does a beautiful job of presenting this valued piece of American theatre. This production is cast well, and includes some musical underscoring which is reminiscent of Masterpiece Theatre in the presentation. I thought it was used with great effect. This was greatly enhanced by the work of the terrific sound designer Stan Kozak. The authentic set results from expert design and craftsmanship from set designer Cameron Caley-Michalak. He has a great sense of how to utilize space and make the most out of budgetary constraints. The results add a tremendous atmosphere. Accented by the lighting design work of Scott Sutton, it is a perfect setting.  Costume Designer Luke Scattergood adds another creative dimension with adroit choices. Dempsey pulls all of these elements together for a fine night of storytelling.

There is much to celebrate about this production, led by the performances of Brian McNally as“George” and Nate Sayatovich as “Lenny”. They consume these roles. The chemistry between these two is tangible and captivating. McNally is excellent. His manner of speech, movement, inflection, and emotions are dead on. McNally’s performance is based in refreshing truth. Equally as powerful is Sayatovich. Lennie is a demanding role, that requires an actor to not make a mockery out of someone less fortunate, but create a human that we can relate to and root for. Sayatovich engulfs his role, providing a child-like presence, while inexplicably riding the surface of his determinable reckless strength. It is a deft, realistic presentation.

The supportive cast is great. Bob Kenderes gives Candy beautiful simplicity and honor as a man who is coming to the end of his journey, but dreams on. Crooks, played by Greg White, gives a searing performance that addresses the racial tensions of the day, and the loneliness that segregation causes to a human soul. Eric Perusek creates a callous, jealous, jerk out of Curly. I know I enjoyed when the tables were turned on him. Andrew Knode excelled at bringing depth and compassion to Slim. His silent support of George toward the end is very moving. Greg Mandryk’s Carlson looks like he just stepped out of a John Houston film. His mustached personae is great. David Arrendondo and Herb Hadders as Boss and Whit, round out the cast nicely.

As the lone female in the cast, Kelly Marie Tomko, brings a restless sweetness as Curley’s Wife. An unnamed character, it is her job to bring a danger to the proceedings, and eventually to Lennie. Tomko holds her own against this cast. Her beautiful looks are delicately balanced with a dangerous desire for attention. She handles the crisis with Lennie with noble strength and focus.

One last note. The ending. Mr. Dempsey, that rocked!

Artistic Director/Founder Rick Fortney has every reason to be proud.
Get out to TrueNorth Cultural Arts and continue to build on our community theatres!

February 7 - February 23

7:30pm Fridays
7:30pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

$10-$18 Reserved Seating
(440) 949-5200

TrueNorth Cultural Arts
French Creek Nature & Arts Center
4530 Colorado Ave.
Sheffield Village, OH 44054

Kevin Joseph Kelly

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