By Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard
For its final production of the year, King's Town Players turns to a novella many of us read in high school.
Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, tells the story of George (Zorba Dravillas) and Lennie (Clayton Garrett), two drifters moving from job to job as ranch hands in California all the while dreaming of having their own spread some day.
George, who's smart and protective of his friend, leads, while man-child Lennie, large and overly strong, but not smart, follows him wherever. The opening scene, in fact, lays out the dynamic of their relationship as George warns Lennie against drinking too much water.
The pair, who found trouble at their last jobs, have landed new ones at a plantation, where a host of characters await them. There's Candy (Craig Godfrey), the amiable one-handed handyman who feels old and useless, just like his dog. He buys into the pair's vision of someday having their own spread, and wants to join them by offering them his life savings. There's also Curley (Nikolas Yuen), the owner's bad-tempered son, who takes a dislike to Lennie, and his wife (Melissa Radford), who is lonely and wants to be anywhere other than where she is.
This particular production is being staged at Convocation Hall, inside Queen's University's Theological Hall, the second venue King's Town has been using in addition to the Kingston Yacht Club. This is not a small production, and Convocation Hall's stage offers plenty of room, which director Chris McKinnon uses effectively. I really liked the set, from the standalone door and frame of the bunkhouse to the cramped quarters of Crooks (Cassel Miles) inside the barn.
Then there are the two performances. As in-charge George, Dravillas delivers another intense performance, as he typically does. His George is always on alert, and never seems to relax because, when he does, bad things happen. George, though, changes as the play goes on, and Dravillas dials down his intensity accordingly.
Garrett, similarly, does a great job with Lennie, the man-child whose temper can't be controlled by anyone except George, not even himself. And a large man, Garrett looks as though he could, like Lennie, cause serious physical harm should he want to. That was evident in the scene in which Lennie is attacked by Curley -- you can see Garrett switch from glad to mad quickly.
I also like the desperation Godfrey's voice gives to Candy the handyman, while Radford's portrayal of Curley's mischievous wife was just the right balance of flirtatious and annoying.
While the script nowadays would seem dated, it certainly offers an interesting view of what life was like in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and how some things, like jealousy and hate, have never changed.
While I've liked most of King's Town's productions this year, I think this is the one I've enjoyed the most, and the standing ovation it received opening night was deserved.
Of Mice and Men
Written by John Steinbeck
Directed by Chris McKinnon
A King's Town Players production running Wednesday to Saturday until May 13 at Convocation Hall inside the Theological Hall on Queen's University campus. The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. for each performance. Tickets cost between $12 and $25.
George: Zorba Dravillas
Lennie: Clayton Garrett
Candy: Craig Godfrey
Slim: Jason Bowen
Carlson: Ben Hudson