In 1937, when John Steinbeck wrote his classic novella "Of Mice and Men," he intentionally structured it like a play, seemingly aware that it would find a life on the stage.
He didn't have to wait long. The next year, the Broadway version earned the New York Drama Critics' Circle award for best play. A year later, Hollywood beckoned and the movie, starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr., was nominated for four Academy Awards.
Other productions followed, including a TV movie in 1992 with Gary Sinese and John Malkovich. The original novella, often banned in its early years, now is required reading in many high schools.
Soon, local playgoers will be able to see what all the fuss was about when "Of Mice and Men" opens a four-weekend engagement at the Costa Mesa Playhouse under the direction of Michael Serna, who previously staged "God of Carnage" and "A Behanding in Spokane" at the same theater.
As the play unfolds, George and his physically powerful but simple-minded companion, Lenny, are migrant ranch workers, on the run from trouble yet hoping to earn enough money to buy a piece of land and a home of their own.
Serna labels the drama "one of those classic shows that, even if you know it well, it's great journey to revisit. The texture and heart of Steinbeck's world is so palpable in this play."
In the Costa Mesa version, the key roles of George and Lenny will be played by Angel Correa and Peter Hilton. They're supported by Michael Dale Brown, Bill Carson, Mauricio Zamora, Kelsey Olson, Mark Tillman, Stefan Marchand, Chris Mertan and Van Hudson.
"George and Lenny are the heart of the story," Serna notes, "but it's really about all the hard-working men and women that struggle to get a little glimpse of the American dream."
What: "Of Mice and Men"
Where: Costa Mesa Playhouse, 611 Hamilton St.
When: July 29 through Aug. 21
Cost: General admission tickets start at $18, but the cost is $13 each for groups of 10 or more.
Information: costamesaplayhouse.com; (949) 650-5269
TOM TITUS reviews local theater.