Friends on and off the stage

Bunce actually played the role of George once before, but only briefly. In college, he and a classmate acted out the first and final scenes of "Of Mice and Men" for another student's directing project.

He loved the part, and getting to reprise it alongside Romeo holds special significance for Bunce because the two are longtime friends themselves.

"We've been doing plays together for 25 years," Bunce said. "It's very comfortable working together. With just a nod, we can translate what we need to do."

Lange, the director, shares that sense of familiarity. Lange retired as NYSTI's associate artistic director in 2006; before that, he had called Bunce and Romeo co-workers for more than two decades.

"There's really something special about working with people you know so well," he said. "We have a way of communicating with each other. We just understand."

The ease with which the trio works together has helped them overcome the unusual production schedule for "Of Mice and Men." The cast had its first rehearsals in August, then had to break for more than six weeks while NYSTI staged "Twelve Angry Jurors."

Romeo said that he could concentrate on only one show at a time, so he had to put "Of Mice and Men" on the back burner while he worked on "Twelve Angry Jurors." That proved frustrating, because when the "Of Mice and Men" cast reconvened on Monday, Oct. 20, things weren't quite clicking the way they had in August.

"We were in a groove," Romeo said. "We've had to do a lot of catching up."

In fact, on the first day rehearsals resumed, Lange panicked.

"I thought, oh my gosh. We're never going to be able to get this thing back on track," he said.

But by mid-week, the cast was right back where it needed to be.

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