Music and Libretto
by Carlisle Floyd
Based on the novel
by John Steinbeck
January 22, 1970
A clearing in a dark wood, late in the evening.
George Milton and his traveling companion, Lennie Small are once again
fleeing from the police and arrive in the clearing to hide. This
situation provokes the almost daily explosion of anger from George,
followed eventually by yet another reconciliation. Lennie has a mouse
with him that he has inadvertently killed by petting it too roughly.
George discovers the dead mouse and makes Lennie throw it away. Lennie
objects telling George that he loves soft things that he can stroke and
To appease Lennie, George describes their dream of a farm of their
own, as they settle down for the night.
The ranch bunkhouse; the next day
Curley, the ranch boss, waits impatiently in the bunkhouse with Candy,
an old crippled ranch-hand, for George and Lennie to arrive. Curley's
wife, a cheaply attractive young woman, comes into the bunkhouse and
complains of Curley's neglect. Quarreling, the couple leaves.
George and Lennie enter reporting for work, as the remaining ranch-hands return
from the fields. Slim, the most respected of the ranch-hands, offers
his dog’s new litter of puppies to the men.
As the ranch-hands begin their nightly activities, Curley's wife re-enters the bunkhouse and
openly flirts with the men.
After she has gone, a furor erupts over
Candy's old smelly dog, with Carlson and the ranch-hands demanding the
dog be shot rather than remain in the bunkhouse. Candy protests, but is
eventually overwhelmed by the shouts of the men, and Carlson takes the
dog outside and shoots him.
Lennie pleads with George for one of Slim's puppies.
The ranch bunkhouse; several days later
As the ranch hands are outside tossing horseshoes, George is looking
through the newspaper and finds an ad for a small farm. Slim tries to
discourage him, but George says he and Lennie will find their dream,
declaring that his and Lennie's lives will not be the lonely lives of
isolation of typical ranch-hands.
As George reads the want ad to Lennie, he is overheard by Candy who offers
his savings, but only if he is included in their plans. With some quick
calculations, George believes they can buy the property within one
month. George, Lennie and Candy celebrate.
They are interrupted shortly by Curley's wife who, despite their
pleas, willfully insists on staying in the bunkhouse. She is discovered there by
Curley, who enters with Slim and Carlson. Lennie chuckles at Curley’s anger, so Curley
begins beating Lennie with his riding crop. George tells Lennie to
defend himself, so Lennie seizes Curley’s hand and bends it back until
Curley cannot take anymore. George and Candy are fearful for their
jobs, however Slim says if Curley does not fire them, they will not tell
how he got hurt. But Curley’s wife says she’s glad he’s been hurt, to
which Curley begins beating her. The men pull Curley away and his wife
runs from the room.
Candy asks George to read aloud about their farm again.
The hay barn; the following afternoon
Lennie is hiding in the barn, holding his dead puppy which he
inadvertently killed. Curley’s wife enters with her suitcase. She
tells Lennie that she’s leaving Curley and heading for Hollywood to be a
movie star. Lennie tells her about his dream of owning a farm and while
she talks of expensive clothes and a glamorous career, Lennie is excited
about pigs and ducks.
Lennie tells her of his love of stroking soft things and
she invites him to stroke her hair. Fascinated, Lennie is unable to
stop when Curley's wife begins to protest. Alarmed she screams for
help. Lennie, afraid of being discovered with her, covers her mouth
with his hand and in the struggle accidentally breaks her neck. Dimly
perceiving what he has done, he tries to cover her body with the hay
and then leaves the barn.
Candy shortly appears and discovers the body. George and Slim are summoned
by Candy, and Slim urges George to get Carlson’s pistol from the bunk house
and "get it over with as soon as you can." Broken, George exits
with Slim while Candy curses the dead body of Curley's wife for robbing them
of their dreams.
A clearing in the woods
Lennie rushes in, cold and frightened with George soon following him.
Lennie offers to leave by himself, but George tells him to stay. Lennie
becomes alarmed when he hears the ranch hands in the distance, so George
begins telling him about their little farm. He urges Lennie to look
across the river and imagine their farm. Lennie says that he does see
their farm and drops to his knees. George comes behind him, pulls out
the pistol and shoots Lennie in the head. George pulls the folded
newspaper ad from his wallet and places it in Lennie’s hand. The ranch
hands rush in and stand around a slumped George. In the distance, the
song of the balladeer is heard.
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