As cast members put themselves in the time of America’s Great Depression, they came to the realization that some aspects have not changed. The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) have spent countless hours in preparation and character development. The comparisons between society then and now circulate around Steinbeck’s themes of loneliness and the “American Dream.”
“Lenny and George have a near impossible dream. They want to have their own land and grow their own crops, but unfortunately have to come to terms that the dream is dead,” said Josh Peyton, who plays George. “This day in age, too many people live paycheck to paycheck. This relates to the show of living the good life but then something coming along to change everything.”
Controversial issues in the 1930’s are as comparable to today’s society of what is considered to be “socially acceptable.”
“This show really exemplifies how little there is out there for adults and even children who have mental challenges or disabilities, especially in our current political climate,” said Tony Schik, who plays Lenny. “Even the use of the “n-word” was very relevant at the time and is still historically relevant.”
Lenny is a character with unspecified mental challenges with a heart-of-gold. He and Curly’s wife, who is unnamed, are both symbolic icons that reiterate the theme of loneliness. Curly’s wife, played by Mallory Vallier, is the only female in the novel. Similarities to then and now all come back to equal rights and women empowerment.
“It is such an impersonal thing to not give Curly’s wife a name,” Schik said. “She wanted to be viewed as person, not just an object in the play. This is just one of the many messages that resonate throughout the show. I hope the audience takes away more than just ‘I remember reading this’ with them.”
With being the only woman in the cast, Vallier worked on developing her character and finding her motivations that also relate to sexism today. She also felt the theme of loneliness off-set too and wanted to do more than just “exist” as the character.
“I wanted to do my character justice for myself and women. I worked on developing her as a more well-rounded character rather than just being known as a ‘tart’ or ‘tramp,’” Vallier said. “I also was surrounded by a great group of gentlemen in the cast that I could talk to when I felt lonely in my own dressing room.”
Curly’s wife is looking for her own dream just as much as the males she is surrounded by. She feels unwanted by her husband, who never knows where she is.
“You see what is happening to Curly’s wife and that she is brave and wants a better life,” Vallier said. “I believe a lot of women can relate to her and agree that it is still tough even in today’s society, to walk away from a situation like hers.”
Today is as easily comparable to Steinbeck’s view as it was nearly 80 years ago. From dominance, social status, and women’s equality, the cast members leave their audience in wonder and awe, not to mention some tears too, as they get them thinking about the deeper meaning than what they remember reading in high school.