Robert Hupp’s penchant for John Steinbeck’s work is nearly up there with his love for Shakespeare, and everyone around the Arkansas Repertory Theatre knows how much the company’s producing artistic director enjoys presenting plays by the Bard.
Hupp now can focus on a Steinbeck show he says he’s wanted to produce for some time: the award-winning “Of Mice and Men,” which opens Friday, Oct. 14.
“This is a play of friendship and isolation, of hope and despair,” said Hupp, who directed “The Grapes of Wrath” at the Rep in 2000. “Steinbeck wrote ‘Of Mice and Men’ to shine a light on the lives of characters that had been scattered about his epic novel ‘In Dubious Battle.’ I was attracted to the play because of the power of the story — it is both timeless and timely — and by the richly drawn characters.”
Hupp, who directs, has brought together a cast of familiar faces — and critically acclaimed acting skill — along with live music to bring the Depression era play to life.
“It is heightened realism at its best, and the opportunity to surround the play with live music enhances the context of the play and enhances that sense of isolation,” Hupp said.
“Of Mice and Men” runs through Oct. 30. A sneak preview and preshow discussion with the director are Thursday, Oct. 13, beginning at 7:15 p.m., with a limited number of seats priced at half the regular admission cost. Regular prices are $30 for the orchestra section, $28 for the first mezzanine and $20 for the second mezz.
“Of Mice and Men” explores the complex relationship between two itinerant workers, George and Lennie, who dream of being able one day to own some land and quit the farm-to-farm lifestyle. Lennie’s habit of getting into trouble, however, has tragic implications for the pair.
Michael Stewart Allen, who starred as Tom Joad in the Rep’s “The Grapes of Wrath” and as Tybalt in “Romeo and Juliet,” plays George. Joseph Graves, whose previous Rep credits include “All My Sons,” “The Tempest,” “All the King’s Men” and “Othello,” plays Lennie. The cast includes eight other actors, with four making returns to the Rep stage. Nick Plakias, who plays the Boss, also provides musical arrangements, and Plakias and other cast members will perform tunes from the 1920s and ’30s.
Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday. Friday’s opening night includes a post-show reception with the cast in the Rep lobby. The Oct. 19 show is signed for the hearing impaired. Call 378-0405 (866-684-3737 outside Pulaski County) for tickets or more information, or visit www.therep.org.