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NY1 Theater Review: 'Of Mice and Men'

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A trio of screen favorites make their way to The Great White Way for the first time in a revival of "Of Mice and Men." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

It's a high school staple. Who hasn't read the book or seen the play? That familiarity presents a challenge for any professional company looking to mount the John Steinbeck classic. And how easy it is to slip into a parody of the George and Lennie dynamic. But I'm thrilled to report this production breathes new life into the 77-year-old drama, so much so, you may find yourself anticipating a happy ending, despite knowing it's a tragedy.

The depression era story tells the tale of George, the smart one, and Lennie, the mentally disabled one, hiring themselves out as ranch hands with the dream of buying their own place so that Lennie can tend to rabbits. Steinbeck's writing is deceptively simple. What may sound like a pathetic plot line becomes a richly engaging study of friendship and lonely desperation. And under Anna D. Shapiro's sensitive direction, it's an emotionally intense and rewarding experience.

Everything about this staging does great justice to the drama. From the design efforts to the meticulous casting, it's rendered in a raw naturalism that grips your attention.

The actors are excellent, investing their character types with great humanity and nuance.

Jim Norton once again delivers a memorable performance as a sad old codger. Ron Cephas Jones makes a huge impression in a tiny role, and Leighton Meester has an interesting take on a role traditionally played as a floozy.

But most of the play's success rides on its two leads, and here, James Franco and Chris O'Dowd, in their Broadway debuts, are outstanding. Franco uncovers dimensions in George we didn't know existed. And O'Dowd will break your heart. He embodies brute strength in a man who can only see as a child. And those eyes - windows to the soul - so touchingly innocent.

No matter how well you know the work, I'm certain this fine company will have you seeing it in a whole new, deeply profound light.

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