|James Franco and Chris O'Dowd. Photo: Richard Phibbs|
By John Steinbeck
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
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.
Of Mice and Men plays at the Longacre threatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC through July 27. http://ofmiceandmenonbroadway.com/.
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Derogatory term for women