ANCHORAGE - Nationally acclaimed Perseverance Theatre of Juneau starts its second season in Anchorage Thursday night at 7:30, with a pay-as-you-can performance of the John Steinbeck Depression classic "Of Mice and Men."
The play recently finished its run in Juneau and now moves to the Performing Arts Center here.
It’s the culmination of a quarter-century dream for two of the actors.
“Of Mice and Men'” is the story of George and Lennie, two itinerant farm workers during the Depression.
Lennie is a hulk of a man, with an unspecified mental disability, whom George alternately protects and is frustrated by.
George: "Now look, I’ll give him the work tickets but you ain't going to say a word. You’re just going to stand there and not say nothing."
Lennie: "Not say nothing."
George: "Because if he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won't get no job. But if he sees you work before he hears you talk, we're set. You got that?"
Lennie" "Sure, George, sure, I got that."
"I think Steinbeck's politics are always really interesting,” said Art Rotch, the artistic director of Perseverance. “But I think ultimately it's a play about mortality. It's a play about how to live life with a purpose and the value of friendship, and those aren't dated at all."
The friendship of the lead characters extends to the real lives of the men who portray them -- veteran actor and director Kevin T. Bennett of Anchorage, and Bostin Christopher of Juneau, whose film credits include the M. Night Shyamalan thriller "Unbreakable."
This Perseverance Theatre production is a dream come true for both of them.
"We used to talk about this play about 25 years ago,” Christopher said. “We were doing a play at the university, and we always thought wouldn't it be great to get to play George and Lennie someday. And you actually never think it's going to come to fruition."
Bennett said, "I just never thought I’d really do the show. And when the opportunity presented itself, that was kind of a nice surprise."
As a big man, Christopher says this is the role he has most wanted to inhabit.
For me personally as an only child, friends have always been my family. And so that kind of relationship, that George and Lennie go on this -- I don't want to call it adventure -- but they live their lives together, there's something fascinating about that."
He says he plays Lennie as a man who is only in the moment, but he did not come to a conclusion about what really is wrong with him.
"I didn't want to put a label on it, because then I think everybody gets to see it and can just experience that innocence and wonder that Lennie has."
The play, like John Steinbeck’s novel, ends on an extremely dark note.
Bennett said, "You can look at this as a tragedy or you can look at this as an uplifting experience: that at least one person, at least one, stood up and took responsibility for what was happening.”
It’s happening through November 4 at the Center for the Performing Arts. The formal opening night is at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The show also runs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday, and the schedule is repeated next week.