Of Mice and Men Aiken Community Theatre

Jason Latimer, Andrew Jones, David Werth and Ken Hendricks spend time relaxing with a card game after a long day of work on the ranch in a scene from "Of Mice and Men" at the Aiken Community Theatre.

John Steinbeck’s classic novella, “Of Mice and Men,” comes to life at the Aiken Community Theatre under the direction of Bob Franklin.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors age 60 and above, $12 for students and children and $17 for active military.

Tickets are available at the ACT box office in person or by calling 803-648-1438. The box office is open from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Tickets are online at aikencommunitytheatre.org.

The performances will be at the AECOM Center for the Performing Arts, the home of the Aiken Community Theatre, at 126 Newberry St. S.W.

Franklin is taking a major turn from his guidance of last summer’s ACT hit comedy “Gibson and Sons” to tackle one of the major dramatic stories from the Depression Era of the 1930s, according to a news release from the theater.

The director explained his change of pace.

“I have always been drawn to scripts that make audiences think, that are timeless in their themes and that present characters with multiple layers,” he said.

He added that he finds plenty to work with in Steinbeck’s intense, testosterone-fueled world of hard men fighting for survival during hard times in an even harsher land.

Of Mice and Men Aiken Community Theatre

Dave Howard, Jason Latimer, Andrew Jones and JC Crider discuss a future they hope to have once they are out on their own in a scene from "Of Mice and Men" at the Aiken Community Theatre.

Bringing life to a play that has become a staple of school reading lists and whose story is already known by many audience members can be a real challenge for a director and the cast members. Franklin offered this explanation of the effort required to tell the story well.

“The difficulty in performing Steinbeck’s script relates in part to the slang employed by uneducated migrant workers of the time,” he said. “Learning the slang is itself difficult. For educated actors, making the words their own is even more difficult. The tendency is always to substitute 'correct' grammar or well-known words and phrases for those written by the playwright.

“Steinbeck is an artist and paints on his canvas with carefully selected dialogue. The natural inclination to change the dialogue is a bit like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.”

Franklin said the play also requires the director to choreograph a realistic fight scene and an accidental murder as well as an intentional mercy killing.

“And Lennie must demonstrate some of the recognizable characteristics of an autistic child while still delivering the lines he has been given,” he said.

Franklin said these challenges are very demanding for the actors and must be handled precisely.

The cast features leads Jason Latimer as George Milton and JC Crider as Lennie Small, two itinerant farm hands who move from job to job and paycheck to paycheck during the Great Depression.

Of Mice and Men Aiken Community Theatre

David Werth, Jason Latimer, Andrew Jones, Dave Howard, Brad King, Taylor Madeiros, Ken Hendricks and Whitney McDonald react to a problem they discover after returning to the bunk house after an evening on the town in a scene from "Of Mice and Men" at the Aiken Community Theatre.

Also, on stage are Curly, played by Taylor Madeiros, a mean and small man who uses violence to survive; Curly's wife, played by Whitney McDonald, a lonely young woman who uses dreams of making it big in Hollywood as a way of coping with a loveless marriage; Candy, played by Dave Howard, whose old dog was euthanized against his will and who wonders what will happen to him when he is no longer of use to society. Other cast members are Slim, played by Kenneth Hendricks, a mule skinner who befriends George and who is the only character to demonstrate heroic qualities, and Crooks, played by Byron Bush. Crooks is a crippled black stable buck who is relegated to living apart from the rest of the ranch hands but who dreams of escaping the harsh reality of his life by offering to join George and Lennie and Candy in finding a little piece of land and, in doing so, regain some of the dignity he had as a youth.

Other characters include Whit, played by Andrew Jones, and Carlson, played by David Werth, another mule skinner who enjoys having power over others and is the one who insists that Candy's old dog be killed.

Finally, there is the Boss, played by Brad King, who does his best to fulfill the job of superintendent for the land company that owns the ranch. He is tough but fair and he is also Curly's dad.

Franklin said his final challenge involved in directing such a classic story is to connect the story with the audience.

“For audiences to get the most out of this play, we – the cast and crew – must keep it moving at pace so that the willing suspension of disbelief never lags and audience members see themselves or people they know in the troubles experienced by each of the characters,” he said.

Want to go:

What: “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday

Where: AECOM Center for the Performing Arts, the home of the Aiken Community Theatre, 126 Newberry St. S.W.

Tickets: Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors age 60 and above, $12 for students and children and $17 for active military. Tickets are available at the ACT box office in person or by calling 803-648-1438. The box office is open from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Tickets are online at aikencommunitytheatre.org.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.