It should come as no surprise that the guy who wrote The Great American Novel, “The Grapes of Wrath” (at least in my opinion), also wrote a play that ranks alongside Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” in its merit and timelessness. The guy is John Steinbeck, of course, and the play (adapted from his novel) is “Of Mice and Men.” It’s Shakespearean in its heft and profundity yet simple and down to earth, a play for all seasons that isn’t staged all that often these days. If you’re quick, you can catch a fine production of it at Costa Mesa Playhouse (through Aug. 21).

This is the tale of two migrant farm workers—Lennie, a sweet-natured simpleton who’s strong as an ox but doesn’t know his own strength, and George, his sharp-witted friend and guardian whose best efforts to keep them out of trouble often fall short. Director Michael Serna wisely lets the story, set in Central California during the Depression, tell itself; his set design and Ryan Linhardt’s lighting are simple but highly effective.

Peter Hilton anchors the play with a towering performance, appropriately, as Lennie; it’s a wholly credible portrayal that will pull you in and not let go. Angel Correa is solid, if not his match, as George. Kelsey Olson turns in a carefully nuanced performance as the bored farm wife who proves their undoing; Michael Dale Brown and Van Hudson Jr. are standouts in support.

Author: Jordan R. Young

Jordan R. Young is a journalist, show business historian, playwright and theatre critic. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways, AAA Tour Books, and The People’s Almanac.