Of Mice and Men On Stage in Visalia

Oct 5, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon for this show at the end of this article

Of Mice and Men is a slice of California’s history. Set in an agricultural area, the play is “a character study based in 1937 that relates to today, particularly with the current recession,” says director Richard Morrill. Steinbeck created characters that evolve through many levels and transitions. According to Morrill, each audience member will take away a personal message; no one will leave the theater untouched.

All the actors were familiar with Steinbeck’s work and are excited about being in the production. Some had rather unexpected connections to the story and/or their characters. For Matt Weaver (George) re-reading the play brought home that “the story is a great examination of California history.”

Left to right: Rick Lotenero as Lenny & Matt Weaver as George

Rick Lotenero’s (Lennie) grandmother worked in the California fields in the 1920s and 1930s so some of the play is very close to home. “Steinbeck wrote about us.”

Don Brakeman (Candy) relates to his character through the experience of losing a dog, and Kyler Williams relates to Whit who is the youngest and “the runt of the liter.”

Weaver, a veteran actor, was looking for an opportunity to do something with impact and to work with Morrill as a director. George is a perfect fit. Although George is clever, he has no education and no way to achieve his dreams. Nevertheless, he is innately compassionate which is why he has become saddled with Lennie. “George and Lennie could have pulled off their dreams”, says Weaver, “but life’s events prevent it. One more time he is stymied by events.”

Lotenero, also a veteran actor, had the role of Lennie on his “bucket list.” He is thrilled with the opportunity to mark an item off his list and work with Morrill as a director. Lotenero describes the relationship between George and Lennie as like brothers, giving them an added strength that others at the ranch do not have. Lotenero is very pleased with the chemistry he’s developing with Weaver through Lennie’s instantaneous emotional transitions.

Left to right: Rick (Lennie), Don Brakeman as Candy & Matt (George)

Chris Brantley (Slim), who recently appeared in A Taffeta Wedding, was looking for a meatier role to evolve his acting skills. Brantley believes that Slim offers him that opportunity. Brantley describes Slim as a nice contrast to the leads (George and Lennie) who have to move on. Slim is stable, knows the boss, and if there is a problem the hands go to him.

Curley (Henry Gonzales) is a vile person who cheats on and is cruel to his wife (Kate Smithyman). Gonzales, who has more experience with comedic roles, is enthused to be in a drama which gives him the opportunity to stretch as an actor.

Smithyman notes that Curley’s wife is often portrayed as a tramp, but Smithyman sees her as a very unhappy young woman trapped in a despicable relationship. “She’s flirtatious because that’s the only way she knows how to relate and is frustrated by being ignored, but she’s not a tramp.”

Candy (Brakeman) has lost a hand and had a tough life. He feels less than a man for the loss of his hand, and the loss of his dog took away his only friend until he becomes friends with George and Lennie. Williams, who portrays Whit, notes, “Whit is the comic relief character to some extent.” Supporting characters include Crooks (J. J. Pestenio), Carlson (Brian Dodd), The Boss (Larry Keim), and Marv (Ed Robinson).

Of Mice and Men, a powerful taste of reality in the 1930s in California, opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 7, 2011 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 10/7, 10/8, 10/14, 10/15, 10/21, and 10/22 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 10/9, 10/16, and 10/23.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Print this page and take to the show to get discount:

Visalia Community Players Two-For-One Coupon
Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Admit 2 Adults for $12.00
Coupon good for any performance of the play.
One Coupon Per Family
Reservations Suggested – 559-734-3900

Watch for a new Local Live every Wednesday evening at 7!

Nancy Holley has been involved with the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970’s, both as a director and actor. In July, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since then expanded her role at the Players and is now Vice President of the Board, and on the perusal committee.


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