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'Of Mice and Men' at Tidewater Players March 2-18

Even in the Great Depression of the 1930s, dreamers hoped for something better. In John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," itinerant field hands George Milton and Lennie Small dream of buying land of their own someday. At Tidewater Players, director Todd Starkey leads a group of talented actors in a moving production of the classic, which opens today (March 2). It is set in a sunny harvest season in northern California, 1937.

"Of Mice and Men" runs upstairs at 121 N. Union Ave. at Tidewater Players, the community theater of Havre de Grace, weekends through March 18. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10. Visit http://www.tidewaterplayers.com or pay at the door.

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Chip Meister plays Lennie Small, whose body is huge, but whose intellect is, true to his name, small.

"He's like a big child, but he doesn't know his own strength," said Meister, who played Lennie in a high school production 30 years ago. "He likes soft things, furry things, nice soft hair. He loves George. George is his family. George is all he has."

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Lennie's big dream is to tend the rabbits on the farm he and George hope to buy. Steinbeck claims he got part of the title for his novel, later a play, from Scottish poet Robert Burns' poem, "To A Mouse." These memorable lines from the poem seem to apply to the play: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft agley (go oft awry),"

Greg Bell plays George, Lennie's buddy and protector.

"George is a good hearted guy, almost like a big brother to Lennie," Bell said. "He loves him like a brother, like a son. He doesn't want anything to happen to him."

Bell and Meister are glad to be working together again. Two years ago, they appeared in Tidewater's gripping production of"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"– Bell as ill-fated McMurphy and Meister as Chief Bromden.

Versatile Chris Cahill, who recently played a villain in "Wait Until Dark" at The Vagabonds in Baltimore, here plays the insightful, yet practical Slim.

"He's in charge of a team of mules," Cahill said. "He's not the boss. He's not the foreman, but everybody looks up to Slim. He understands George and cares about George and Lennie. He knows there's not a mean bone in that big guy's body."

Tidewater newcomer Vaughan Ellerton plays old timer Candy, who has lost one hand working on the ranch and fears his time is running out. His companion is an old dog he has had since he was a pup.

Ranch hands Carlson and Whit are played by Paul Penrod, another "Cuckoo's Nest" veteran, and Tim Hartley, who played manic Lenny Ganz in Tidewaters' recent production of "Rumors."

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Rondy Vick, who appeared in Tidewater's fall production of "The Civil War," plays Crooks, a stable buck with an injured back. Isolated in the barn because he is black, Crooks has built up a lot of anger toward the world in general.

Ken Williamson plays the Boss. Chad La Fleur plays his hot-tempered son, Curley, whose new wife seems to have a wandering eye.

"Ken plays my dad again," La Fleur said, referring to Tidewater's recent production of "The Boys Next Door."

In that show, the two played another father-son combination in which Williamson attacked La Fleur, derailing his recovery from mental illness.

"Curley has got this whole 'better than anybody' thing. He's a former boxer and the boss' son. When he enters a room, he goes for the biggest guy 'cause if he can take the big guy, the rest of the guys will be intimidated," he said, adding, "Curley's married to a tart."

Denise Rogers, who played shy Nurse Flinn in "Cuckoo's Nest," is here the sole woman in the show. She is identified only as Curley's wife and shunned by the ranch hands because of Curley's jealousy.

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"She's actually very lonely because Curley is never around," said Rogers, who in real life is a producer for the seven o'clock show on WBAL-TV. "All she wants is a friend to talk to. She's very misunderstood. She wants attention from someone who will care what she says and thinks about things."


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