By Mary Ann Bourbeau
HOLMDEL – In 1785, the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem entitled “To a Mouse.” From that poem came the phrase, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley (often go awry).”
According to legend, Burns accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest while plowing a field. Farmers are usually too busy to be concerned with the life of a mere mouse, but Burns’ brother claims the poet wrote “To a Mouse” while still holding on to the plow, an illustration of how Burns respected all creatures, no matter how small.
It is this poem that spurred the title of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, “Of Mice and Men,” which tells the tale of George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant workers who travel from town to town looking for work during the Depression. Kindhearted George has become somewhat of a caretaker for his friend Lennie, a giant man with a child’s mind. The two hope to one day attain the dream of owning a house on their own piece of land, but Lennie stirs up trouble that puts their dream in jeopardy.
“Of Mice and Men” will be the next production at the Duncan Smith Theater in Holmdel from March 24 to April 8. The play is directed by Tinton Falls resident Michael Kroll, who has acted in and directed numerous productions throughout the area, including “A Christmas Carol,” “The Producers,” “Les Miserables” and “Inherit the Wind.”
“The people at Holmdel are wonderful to work with,” he said. “They take chances with their plays. They don’t do the usual crowd-pleasers. They have an appreciation for good literation and choose shows that make you think.”
Kroll noted that the idea of dreams being shattered is timeless, one that is still relevant today.
“The Depression was such a terrible time for workers and George and Lennie were hoping for a better life,” he said. “These two guys went from ranch to ranch working hard labor, never losing sight of the dream.
But time and again, Lennie would get carried away; they would lose the job and were forced to move on to another ranch.
“Lennie was George’s best and only friend,” Kroll said.
In the Holmdel Theatre production, Dave Duncan plays George and Lennie is portrayed by Brian Craig.
“I’m very blessed to have a remarkable cast led by two seasoned actors,” said Kroll. “Lennie is a very difficult role and Brian embraced it. I didn’t want it to be cartoonish or over the top. We wanted the audience to have a sense of compassion for both of them.”
The Holmdel Theatre is a nonprofit, semi-professional theater and, being located on the grounds of Holmdel High School, it focuses highly on student involvement. For this show, students run the lights and sound and serve as crew members and assistant stage manager.
“I’ve been involved in theater for over 40 years,” said Kroll. “When I was a kid, it was important to me for those seasoned actors to have that mentoring attitude. It gives you something to aspire to and it helps you hone your craft.”
Tickets are $15-$25 and are available by calling 732-946-0427 or visiting www.holmdeltheatrecompany.org.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the March 16-23, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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