Review by Gail Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: During the great depression of the 1930′s the migrant workers weren’t from Mexico, they were your neighbors, often displaced by the collapsed American economy and without a home to call their own. John Steinbeck wrote a novel about this, an unblinking view of both the society that existed at the time, and contrasted its optimistic humanity with the prejudices that was America at that time – racism, sexism and the difficulty people with disabilities faced, often with little sympathy from others. It’s a tough play, but a fair accounting of that era.
Gail Burns: The major “safety nets” for many disabled and elderly then were friends and family. Lennie Small, who is mentally disabled, has no family. He is extraordinarily lucky to have his friend George Milton. But while George is mentally much more capable, he needs Lennie to justify his existence as much as Lennie needs him for the basics of life. Lennie gives George a purpose for being, a fact that makes the ending twice as tragic.
Larry: Against the background of this unlikely friendship between two migrant workers, Lennie and George encounter other bindlestiffs in much the same situation. That word really describes their world.
Gail: The word “bindlestiff” refers to both the iconic bundle in a kerchief tied to end of a stick and to the hoboes who carry them. It was a lonely life on the road, and few men teamed up as George and Lennie do. But it was equally lonely for many on who stayed put as well. The western United States was lightly populated, and there was no highway system connecting communities.