John Steinbeck’s story of two Depression-era drifters and their thwarted dream is so much a part of our cultural identity that actors are frequently awed into distancing themselves from their roles. Under the direction of Eileen Niccolai, however, the performers in this Shattered Globe Theatre production turn their focus inward to amplify the characters’ closely guarded hopes and fears–in particular those of the slow-witted Lennie, rendered surprisingly expressive by John Harrell. What this no-holds-barred approach to feeling might sacrifice in subtlety it more than makes up for in vigor and immediacy. Through 3/19: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM. Victory Gardens Theater, second-floor studio, 2257 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000. $25.