by John Steinbeck
Directd by Anna D. Shapiro
Starring James Franco and Chris O'Dowd
Longacre Theatre
Official Website

Reviewed by David Spencer

If the best that can be said of how you approached directing John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is that you cast it well, staged it cleanly and otherwise gave the appearance of staying out of its way...well, that's high praise indeed. And that, at least in terms of a successful theatrical illusion put forth, is what Anna D. Shapiro gives the impression of having done. A compact, simple yet elegant American classic—almost a folk tale—Of Mice and Men features iconic characters who defined their archetypes, and Ms. Shapiro hasn’t layered on anything overtly interpretive; she’s just allowed what it is, intrinsically, to breathe free.

                  The contrast between the two itinerant farm workers at the core is of course the key. George has to be short, clever, cautious and quick to improvise a solution. His companion Lennie has to be big, guileless, simple and like a little child in a giant’s body. James Franco and Chris O’Dowd fill the bill perfectly. Once you establish that, it’s impossible to fight the obvious; actors playing other characters like the no-nonsense farm boss (Jim Ortleib), his bully of a son (Alex Morf), the son’s floozie of a wife (Leighton Meester), the old-timer facing the onrush of obsolescence (Jim Norton)—and the rest, as the first iteration of the Gilligan’s Island theme song insufficiently put it—have to embrace the bold strokes and extremes because therein are the elements that make the tale dynamic. And at the Longacre Theatre they do…and it is.

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