What: "Of Mice and Men"
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 15
Where: Roland Hayes Concert Hall, UTC Fine Arts Center, 752 Vine St.
Admission: $22 adults, $19 seniors, $15 students/children
Christopher Michael McFarland gets why people leave John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" with a touch of sadness, but he says there are brighter feelings to take away as well.
"What's beautiful about this play is it deals with some pretty dark stuff and has such a tragic reputation," he says, "but there is such hope and such love in this play."
The stage version of Steinbeck's classic novella of tough times in 1930s California will be presented by The Acting Company as the final Patten Performances presentation of the year. It will be performed Monday in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Fine Arts Center.
McFarland portrays Lennie, a somewhat slow-witted manchild who has arrived at a California ranch with his friend and protectorate George looking for migrant work.
Eventually, as they find themselves at odds with the ranch owner's hotheaded son, he dreams of someday owning a farm with George where he can tend to the animals he loves to cuddle.
McFarland says he has seen "Of Mice and Men" onstage as well as the 1939 and 1992 movies based on the play, but maintains "you see what you like [from them] but do your own thing" in developing the character.
"It was a challenge," he says. "I felt rather a lot of pressure because of the notoriety of the role."
To play a character with a "mental difference," McFarland says, "you don't want to downplay [it], but you don't want to seem offensive."
He says he didn't want to repeat either the archetypal way Lon Chaney Jr. played "the myth of Lennie" or "the diagnostic kind of performance" John Malkovich gave in the role. "Lennie is a pretty special character."
Instead, McFarland says, he chose to "focus on clues left by Steinbeck" to create a character with "a kind of simplicity and emotional musculature" who can swing easily from sad to happy emotional states.
The story itself, he says, portrays characters seeking a "profound and human desire for hope and friendship," people "looking out for their fellow man, wanting to do right by each other. That's the love this play celebrates."
Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.