Of Mice and Men --
John Steinbecks Of Mice and Men is at the Play House through January 28.
As the consummate buddy story gone horribly awry, John Steinbeck's classic is about colliding passions, including the obsession for survival and human connection in a parched and hostile environment. On a farm in Depression-era California, clever George and his large, dim-witted sidekick Lennie try to eke out a living while trying to keep Lennie from accidentally offing people. Director Seth Gordon manages the pace well, but the intensity is largely missing. Harry Carnahan's George is more Clooney than Steinbeck, too smooth by half and failing to register the genuine tension between living his hardscrabble life and maintaining the relationship with his needy pal. And while Jeffrey Evan Thomas as Lennie is a lovable lunk, with delicate hand gestures belying his size, he doesn't succeed in making this man the dangerous, imminent threat he must represent in order for the story to resonate. With those passions banked, Lennie's confrontation with hot-tempered Curley's wife (played with a predictable bedroom drawl by Amanda Rowan) does not deliver the requisite shivers. But on the plus side, Wiley Moore as Crooks and John Woodson as Carlson draw rich and believable characters. Through January 28 at the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., 216 795-7000. -- Christine Howey