True, Steinbeck’s 1937 masterpiece has been done many times and in several variations – plays, films, television productions – but this timeless and tragic story still conveys its message with a freshness on the stage of New York’s Longacre Theatre. I think it can be attributed to the youthfulness of its leading players, James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. While Franco is known for his tongue-in-cheek pretentious “I’m an art guy” persona (exemplified by his character, “James Franco”, in This Is The End), his no-nonsense, world-weary portrayal of George Milton is powerful and gripping. Chris O’Dowd, the brilliant comic star of HBO’s now-cancelled Family Tree, amongst other parts, plays Lennie Small with a charm and childlike innocence that is intense, emotional and heartbreaking. The chemistry between the two lead actors is believable and strong which propels the story along with a greater sense of urgency.
Of equal worth and applause is Jim Norton, the Irish theatre and film actor for his portrayal of the elderly but still-hopeful-for-a-better-life Candy; Ron Cephas Jones as the cynical, yet wryly humorous, Crooks and Leighton Meester, the star of Gossip Girl, as a very sympathetic Curley’s Wife. The stage production and set were believable and well-orchestrated – all in all, another evening of simply fine theatre.
Of Mice and Men is in a limited run on Broadway – do not miss the opportunity to see it if you can.