Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Of Mice and Men @ The Longacre Theater

Of Mice and Men, the classic tale by John Steinbeck, finds new life on Broadway through the powerful performances of Chris O’Dowd and James Franco.  A tragic tale of love and friendship, Of Mice and Men tells the story of George and Lenny, two farm workers who travel together from job to job.  George, a smart and empathetic figure, takes care of Lenny wherever they go.  Lenny, who’s imposing physical stature juxtaposes his mentally disabled, is George’s companion and one true friend.  Together they move across California during the great depression to try and stake a claim to land that they can call their own.  Of Mice and Men tells the tale of their final job together, at a ranch in the Salinas Valley of California.
Franco and O’Dowd masterfully deliver the pain of this story straight to our hearts.  O’Dowd’s Lenny is sweet and childlike, delivering all of the innocence that makes it obvious why George would stay right to the very end.  Franco, for his part as George, is the perfect loving and firm parent that we can hope for Lenny.  Together, the pair brings us closer and closer to the tragic end that they themselves are even expecting.  But all the preparation in the world would not make this any easier.  Individually, O’Dowd and Franco’s performances are excellent.  As a pair, they are incandescent.  Their on stage affection for each other enhances Steinbeck’s already strongly written brother-like bond of George and Lenny.
Franco and O’Dowd are helped in no small part by the supporting cast.  Candy, played by Jim Norton, is immediately given our sympathy.  Norton’s performance is honest, easily winning the audience over from his first moment on stage.  Ron Cephas Jones’ Crooks is cranky and bitter, excellent executed.  Slim, played by Jim Parrack, is smooth and comfortable, completely at home on the stage.
Anna Shapiro’s direction is gives a casual and homey feel to the production.  With the exception of the out of place, pseudo artsy ending, the piece feels very organic.  Todd Rosenthal’s set brings the novella to beautiful life.  The detail wrought on the stage brings us instantly into every character’s life deep in the wild America of the 30s.  David Singer’s music completes the perfect picture.
The two and a half hour show flew by in the blink of an eye and ended with the audience tearfully on their feet.  You should not miss this limited engagement.

Review By: Paul Morin

Photos By: Richard Phibbs

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