PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 23-29: Of Mice and Men and Violet Coming to Broadway, Stewart and McKellen Open to Raves and The Flea to Expand

By Robert Simonson
29 Nov 2013

James Franco
James Franco
Photo by ABC

Film actor James Franco seems to have done a little bit of everything with his still young career — acting, screenwriting, directing, teaching and being a famously truant NYU graduate student. Now, the Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner will give Broadway a try.

Franco and Chris O'Dowd will make their Broadway debuts in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, which will begin previews at Broadway's Longacre Theatre March 19, 2014. Franco will play George, the small, smart one, and O'Dowd will be Lenny, the big, mentally disabled one. Anna D. Shapiro will direct.

"Of Mice and Men" began as a novella published in 1937 by Nobel Prize winner Steinbeck. It was adapted for the screen several times and as a radio play for the BBC. The first stage production was directed by George S. Kaufman in 1937 and ran for 207 performances.

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Only one season old and New York City Center's Encores! Off-Center — an off-shoot of Encores! that focuses on past Off-Broadway musicals — already has its first Broadway transfer.

Sutton Foster will star in the Broadway premiere of Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley's 1997 musical Violet, about a disfigured young woman on a cross-country journey seeking transformation through faith. It will be presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company and directed by Leigh Silverman, beginning performances March 28, 2014, at the American Airlines Theatre.

This production is based on the 2013 Encores! Off-Center production of Violet, which starred Foster and was directed by Silverman.

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Mark Rylance in Tweflth Night.
photo by Joan Marcus

The fall's first in-repertory attractions — Mark Rylance's Twelfth Night and Richard III — opened to huzzahs earlier this month. This week, it was the turn of the season's second rotating double bill of classics, Harold Pinter's No Man's Land and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. And they were equally well-received.

Mostly, critics were delighted with the actors and the chance to see them gnaw away on a quartet of classic roles. "Both actors," said Newsday, "neither one immune to the lure of excess showmanship, are terrific — stylish, disciplined, strikingly different." A few critics noted how Stewart and McKellen's showmanship made the famously enigmatic plays more accessible. "Both Land and Godot, in fact, prove that the most challenging and unsettling material can make for accessible, even buoyant, entertainment," wrote USA Today. The New York Times echoed the sentiment, saying, "I have never before heard American audiences respond to any production of Pinter of Beckett with such warm and embracing laughter."

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