Millions of Americans are fearfull amid the world-wide depression, but everyone who sees the play “Of Mice and Men” should feel better.

The University of Texas-Pan American has revived this classic by staging it five times between Oct. 14 and 18. Phone 956-381-3581 for ticket information.

This gritty book by John Steinbeck in 1937 twice became a movie, once a play.

NOT for small children, this play can break your heart, make you laugh, and force you to admit that the Great Depression of the 1930s was far worse than the hard times now.

Director Brian Warren has assembled a strong cast that brings poverty, unfairness and poor treatment of mental illness before your eyes. Yet there is tenderness and love, plus some laughs to make it all seem entirely real.

Rick Rosales carries the action as a decent man who tries to save his mentally challenged, to say the least, friend to find a better job. Rosales’ character does the best he can, despite long odds. His gritty conversations and fights seem absolutly true for down-and-out farm workers.

Having seen this in a rehearsal, I can’t wait to see the finished play, if there are any seats left in Edinburg.

Valley farm workers and farm owners might enjoy it too, because each character has his say, and conditions have improved considerably, if never enough, since the 1930s.

Jorge Chapa also sizzles as Lenny, the retarded giant of a man who speaks like a small child and loves small animals, including mice. The actor is probably a good student who will do well, as most students in plays do, yet he hits this character on the nose. His blank looks, mistakes and fate are all magnificent.

This isn’t a “normal” play review, because this begins an experiment with the Valley Town Crier and the Edinburg Review letting a reviewer loose on rehearsals instead of oppening nights, which come too late for making a weekly newspaper’s deadline. This will make the public aware of what they might miss otherwise.

All the cast seemed eager to have a reviewer present, and they did this great play proud that night.

Gus Kennedy played an old, worn-out farm worker with a missing hand, who shares a dream of a place to live. His old dog, Senorra, also got credit for a long, well-mannered time onstage.

Romeo Cantu acted well as a farm owner, also earning fine notes from a reviewer with never enough space for a full review.

Luis Moreno is the villain as Curley, the owner’s vicious son, starting real-looking fights, winning some and losing some.

Maegan de la Rosa plays Curley’s new wife, who is not what a fresh bride should be, to put it mildly. She does this demanding role well.

Noel Reyna looks and acts his role as Slim, another man with problems, and bears watching in one of America’s greatest plays

Daniel Lopez plays Carlson, whose heavy laugh sounds sinister in a way.

Brandon Garcia enjoys telling his experience with older women in his role as Whit.

Anthony Koll missed this rehearsal with illness, but will perform as Crooks, another down and out farm worker, after being replaced at this rehearsal by the assistant stage manager, Mark Rodrigues.

“Of Mice and Men” used to be considered controversial, but has become a classic. The book is still read by many Texas students in high school. This play shows great promise after watching the rehearsal. It could become one of the all-time Top 20 student plays at UTPA, if the revival performs as well as the show looked in the rehearsal a week before opening night.