Though I read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men, a great American classic, in high school, the storyline remained a distant memory. All I could recall was that it was set in the 1930’s and two ranchers traveled together, seeking work; one was rather slow, and one was rather angry.
In all honesty, what originally drew me to the Broadway play was, well, James Franco. (I walk around conveying how he’s so raw and talented and deep and undeniably pretty through and through, so how could I not jump at the chance to see him live on stage, an hour away from where I am on Long Island?)
And while I wasn’t one of those teenage girls who was able to acquire a ‘selfie’ with him (I still cling to my old school phone, so he’d have to show me how to take the picture anyway), I giddily basked in the fact that his epidermis did happen to touch the pen that touched my playbill. In other words, after crawling through some folks in the crowd, I was able to obtain his signature. Yes.
However, when friends and family inquired about the experience, I felt compelled to note that in addition to my school girl excitement surrounding James, the play was incredibly moving and powerful. Because it was. Because it’s much more than the celebrity appeal (Chris O’ Dowd and Leigton Meester play the other leads). I’m not going to pretend to be an acclaimed theatre critic, because I am not one, but from my personal vantage point, the entire cast put their heart and soul into this performance, into making Steinbeck’s words come to life.
In simple terms, the production made me feel. Empathy is emitted from O’ Dowd’s character, Lennie; a man who’s mentally slow, but who retains a sense of purity and a tremendous amount of love. He yearns to live on a nice piece of land where there are rabbits. Rabbits make him happy, and when Lennie’s happy, you can glimpse his authenticity and inner radiance. When he asks George to tell him his favorite stories over and over, there’s a particular comfort within the repetition, a reassurance that everything will ultimately be okay.
Franco’s character, George, upholds a thick skin, a tough shell; he’s someone who yells mean-spirited sentiments and becomes immensely frustrated by this kind of lifestyle, and by Lennie who (unintentionally) gets them into trouble. And yet, he too, can pine and dream for something bigger, something beautiful.
Underneath the surface, it’s evident that George does deeply care – he wants to protect Lennie and shield him from the horrors of the outside world, a world without rabbits to hold. George embodies humanity and likability despite his unsympathetic disposition.
And I won’t give too much away for those who aren’t familiar with the narrative, but I will say that I’m sure I wasn’t the only audience member who felt sincerely touched and emotionally impacted by the play’s end.
See Of Mice And Men. See it – not just because of James Franco, Chris O’ Dowd and Leighton Meester – see it because they do a wonderful and admirable job telling a story.