“Maybe everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other”
With Of Mice and Men being my first official Broadway show since I became a New York resident, I was super giddy. And let’s just say the afternoon I went was the prime time for school field trips, meaning: LOTS of twelve year-olds from Upstate! Not to mention I had never even read the book before (I have since then finished in full), making an afternoon at the Longacre Theatre even more of an unknown pleasure.
The play, which was originally written as a novella by John Steinbeck, tells the story of George Milton (James Franco) and Lennie Small (Chris O’Dowd): two guys “bustin’ a gut” tryin’ to make it, with a curious and fascinating dream to one day own their own farm that’s “[g]ot a little win’mill. Got a little shack on it, an’ a chicken run.”
Except for Lennie’s kind of a “crazy bastard” due to the fact he just ain’t right (he got hit in the head), and frankly, life without his stupid ass would be a hell of a lot easier. But regardless, George stays with the painfully sweet Lennie, as the two look out for each other while on their path far away just to get a little bit of money.
The beautifully landscaped stage of “Gabilan mountains flamed with the light of the sunset” in the Salinas Valley (where Mr. Steinbeck is from!) designed by Todd Rosenthal is quite perfect alongside David Singer’s lonesome and very fitting score that will have you kicked back as if you too were a migrant worker lookin’ for a pretty penny.
Steinbeck’s story is a classic tale of how everyone’s got a dream; the humanity felt in this revived story is conveyed by an outstanding cast that lights up the stage with every line. Oh, and it’s absolutely silly! You will be laughing at the quirks of Lennie portrayed so animatedly by O’Dowd it’s no wonder he is up for a Tony nom. With him and Franco side-by-side flawlessly voicing the very words of Steinbeck’s, something about their chemistry really warms the room and you will be hanging on every scene.
Characters who pop up in the four acts all serve some purpose for the Of Mice and Men morale, and really again I cannot emphasize enough how great all of the actors were: Mr. Curley (Alex Morf) with that damn Vaseline on his hands, always looking around for his wife (Leighton Meester); my personal favorite Jim Norton as Candy, to name a few.
Needless to say I had fun commencing my future of attending shows in the city; I am also glad to have dabbled into some Steinbeck, having never really gotten “into” him in my own history of lit. Either way, it will not matter if you are a Steinbeckian expert in the highest regard, the simplicity within the story already makes Of Mice and Men an enjoyable watch.
The winner of Loop’s Of Mice and Men ticket giveaway:
What it’s like to try and get a J. Franco autograph (GOOD luck!):
If you’re visiting town in the next upcoming couple of months and are looking to see a live performance, I would definitely make a point to see Shapiro’s production that runs through July (full schedule here).