Friday, May 9, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Of Mice & Men with James Franco and Chris O'Dowd

James Franco and Chris O'Dowd. Photo: Richard Phibbs
Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
Longacre Theatre

What's It all About?
Steinbeck's depressing story of two migrant ranch workers, George (James Franco) and his pal, slow-witted Lenny (Chris O'Dowd) in the Great Depression. You know from the get-go that poor Lennie, who likes soft things, but who doesn't know his own strength when he "pets" them. He and George flee their last place of employment where Lennie tried to touch the soft dress worn by a woman there, and take work at a Salinas Valley ranch run by the Boss (Jim Ortlieb) and his son, Curley Alex Morf).

Curley, jealous about where his pretty new wife (Leighton Meester) has disappeared to, looks for her and suspects that she might be meeting up with crew chief Slim (Jim Parrack). Slim and George hit it off, but George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley's wife, whose frequent visits to the bunkhouse can only mean trouble (she even visits the room of black stable hand Crooks (Ron Cephas Jones) because she is lonely....

Meanwhile, George and Lennie share their dream of one day owning their own ranch and being their own bosses with aging hand, Candy (an excellent Jim Norton), who offers financial backing to make the dream come true to keep from being tossed aside like his old faithful dog who outlived her usefulness and was put down.

Lennie has a hard time controlling that urge to pet soft things, however, and tragedies ensue.

What Are the Highlights?

  • Lovely vistas and authentic looking bunkhouse from set designer Todd Rosenthal.
  • O'Dowd (known for his role in the film "Bridesmaids") gives an impressive (if a bit too articulate and polished for Lennie) performance as the hard-working, mentally challenged guy with a big heart who depends on George to help him. He is nominated for the Tony.
What are the Lowlights?
  • Franco (Spider-Man" film; "Milk," "127 Hours") doesn't get very deep into his character and appeared to be awaiting someone to call "cut." Of course by saying this, I realize I have put myself at risk for being called terrible names by Franco on social media, since that is what he did when the NY Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley did not write flattering comments about his performance....
  • Meester can start tweeting too, because she seemed very awkward on stage. She may be one of those actors who finds it hard to transform film magic ("24," "Entourage," Gossip Girl") into stage success. Director Shapiro leaves her out there looking like an amateur at times. 
  • The script has annoying repetition and is, well, a fairly depressing two hours and 40 minutes (with intermission). But if you are into big star names on stage, this is the one for you. If you didn't have to read this in high school and want to study all of the meanings in Steinbeck's plot, check out Cliffnotes.
More Information:
Of Mice and Men plays at the Longacre threatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC through July 27.  http://ofmiceandmenonbroadway.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Derogatory term for women

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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