By: Michelle Kinsey—
Muncie, IN— It’s a timeless story about friendship and the pursuit of the American dream.
Muncie Civic Theatre will present “Of Mice and Men” Feb. 1-2, 8-10 and 14-16. Performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays will begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees will begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $13 for students and children and $15 for groups of 10 or more.
This show features adult content, strong language and gunshots. This production also uses historically accurate language true to the original text.
Based on one of the most significant pieces of literature from the 20th century by author John Steinbeck, the play tells the story of two transient ranch workers, George and Lennie, and their struggle to earn their own piece of land and some peace of mind. It explores the hardest parts of our society – poverty, social inequality, racism, sexism – and remains as relevant today as when it was written in 1937. This powerful drama shows the enduring power of the American dream and its potential to ruin lives.
“I’ve loved this book since the first time I read it,” said Brittany Covert, the show’s director and Civic’s Marketing Coordinator. “I love how it doesn’t fit normal storytelling conventions. We have an unconventional protagonist, with unconventional relationships, taking unconventional and seemingly unscrupulous actions in the end.”
She said the the cast “really honors and embodies each character perfectly. It has been a joy to work with such dedicated and caring actors.”
Kyle Reninger is taking on the role of Lennie. It’s his first role. Ever.
“I had never even auditioned or considered being in a play,” he said. “My wife and I love being a part of the Muncie community, and we love Muncie Civic Theater, so I saw this as an opportunity to get more involved and support MCT!”
He also saw something special in the role of Lennie, who he interpreted as autistic. “As an adult, my wife, Amanda, and I discovered I have High-Functioning Autism,” he said. “Because of that, I felt connected to the character of Lennie, and prepared in many ways.”
Benji Koontz also has a connection to his character in the play – George. He first tackled that role in the 2003 production at Civic, which resulted in a “Civi” Award for best actor.
“The role of George is one of the most complex characters ever created in my opinion, and diving back into this character after 15 years has made me realize that I am finally old enough and mature enough to be George and take care of and protect my best friend Lennie,” he said.
Koontz said the way Steinbeck has written this classic “shows how Americans really interact with each other, from moment to moment for the most part, while trying to chase the American Dream.”
Covert, who was a high school English teacher before working at Civic, said she taught the book “every year to hundreds of high school students” and “loved watching them fall in love with Lennie and hope his hopes and dream his dreams.”
“Even more so,” she added, “I loved the debate and conversation that this book sparked in my classroom.”
Reninger said he hopes people who see the show leave with “a better understanding of/and sympathy for people perceived as lesser or weaker humans – women, people of color, and the neurodiverse.”
And for those who have never read the book or have seen the production, Koontz said they are “likely in for what will feel like an emotional roller coaster and you will most likely leave the theater wishing there was an alternate ending.”
Certainly worth debate and conversation.