Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Post your Of Mice and Men Comments Here

Paul Lazarus’ direction of Of Mice and Men takes the play in a bold new direction re-setting the play five years later after the signing of the Bracero Treaty. To post your observations about the Bracero program, about John Steinbeck, or about Of Mice and Men please use the comments feature.

And for an even wider audience post your thoughts at the LA Times' new The Guide.


Ken Hudnut said...

Going in, I knew the plot, and presumed to be ready for the gut-wrenching scenes - I wasn't. This performance and all aspects of the production were overwhelmingly powerful once again. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Saw the play last night. Very powerful. You can read my review (I always write one) at my journal.

Anonymous said...

Thought murder of MAE scene wasn't intense enough. I almost lost interest in the rest of the play.

I enjoyed production up to that point.

Celeste said...

can anyone who has seen the play Of Mice and Men contact me please!!!
it would greatly be appreciated!!
thank you

my email is

Jim Harnagel said...

This version "Of Mice and Men" was, sadly, just
on a par with any competent college production. However, the Pasadena Playhouse should aim higher. But I don't know if they can anymore. The recent production of "Of Mice and Men" at Theatre Banshee in Burbank surpassed this in every way. And, I believe, the fault lies with the poorly thought-out "revisionist" concept of shoehorning the play to fit the Playhouse's (quite laudable) diversity goals, which I addressed in an e-mail to the Playhouse's Director of Education in April, the text of which follows:

Dear Ms. Chamow,

I saw "Mask" last Thursday, and read in the program about "the new twist on the old classic" OF MICE AND MEN; i.e. trying to shoehorn the play to fit the Playhouse's diversity efforts

This is troubling to me for a number of reasons:

1) It assumes that there are no works about Latino migrant farm workers. Or works by Latino authors on this topic. ". . . y no se lo trago la tierra/. . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him" by Tomas Rivera (the son of migrant workers himself) leaps to mind (there is an English translation of this work called "This Migrant Earth").

2) "Of Mice and Men" has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BRACERO PROGRAM. Yes, it features migrant workers and their dreams and frustrations. But they are not Latinos. The play takes place in the 30s, not the 40s. It belies a lack of regard for the work, for Steinbeck, for the artistic process. Does Steinbeck's estate even allow to have his works messed with in this way?

3) It's a disservice to the Playhouse's audiences who will be expecting to see "Of Mice And Men"---who will instead see an attempt to make it "relevant" (what came first, I wonder. . . the idea to do "Of Mice And Men" and then make it "relevant", or the idea to address the issues surrounding migrant workers on the Playhouse stage, and somebody thought "Hey! Let's make a Latino version of 'And Mice and Men'! And move it up a few years!"). What's next. . .updating "Zoot Suit" and setting in Watts in 1965 and making it about African Americans? Great art doesn't need to be made relevant. IT ALREADY IS.

4) It's a disservice to the whole idea of diversity, anyway (which brings me back to #1)--that only by bastardizing a play by an Anglo writer can you address or dramatize these stories. If you were to put on your stage stories by Rivera (for instance), an acclaimed Latino writer and educator--who lived this life--you would actually being taking steps to fulfill your diversity goals.

5) This topic I'm sure will come up in the planned off-site panel discussions---and the result will be that the Playhouse will come off as being utterly clueless, however good its intentions (which are very good).

6) And, as Director of Education for the Playhouse, this opens a big can of worms for you----what with these questions coming, no doubt--from the teachers and students who will see this production. I would hope that they would see the current excellent production of "Of Mice And Men" now at the Banshee Theater instead.

So. How to fix this? Well, it's probably too late, but I'd pull the production from the schedule. Or, if not that, then just do the play without the strained and completely bogus attempt to make it about the Bracero program.

Second, I'd get in touch with Rose Portillo, associate director of Pasadena's own About Productions (an accomplished writer and actor who also appeared in the film adaption of Rivera's work ". . .And The Earth Did Not Swallow Him") and commission her to write a stage adaptation for a future season. She's opening in their new production at the Ford Theatre this week, so she's around (

Third, I'd ask that the Playhouse staff to try harder in the future to think through their choices a bit more carefully, so as not to harm their reputation--right now, this is a sadly comical episode worthy of skewering by Culture Clash.

Sorry to be such a crank on a Monday morning,


Jim Harnagel