James Franco Doesn’t Get It

andmeMy favorite plays to see are the brand-new ones. Last season I was fortunate enough  to see Epic Theatre’s James Franco and Me, written by Kevin Broccoli, the “me” in the title. In the play, Kevin sits in a hospital, waiting to see if his father will live through the night. His only company is actor/celebrity James Franco.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and left with an effervescent spiral of thoughts to ponder. This summer I was thrilled to hear the play was going to New York City — not because I don’t love Rhode Island theater, but because it isn’t fair that NY audiences don’t get the opportunity to see the great new works we have in RI. 

Like many, I was totally shocked to hear that the James Franco and Me production in New York was handed a cease and desist letter. Who wasn’t surprised? Kevin Broccoli. And he is fully aware of the irony that comes with that. According to Broccoli, “This summer Epic is doing a summer of satire, and how satire is attacked;” clearly this can be seen as life imitating art.

Whereas most people would run and hide after receiving such a letter, Broccoli has taken it all in stride. “It’s not a very specific cease and desist letter; it looks like a template with the show name inserted.” And that’s what is really interesting here: The letter, which Broccoli is keeping to himself, does not mention him at all. The letter is venue-specific to New York’s People’s Improv Theater. The thing that may have gotten the attention of Franco’s lawyers is the poster. Epic’s poster spoke to the heart of the show with a light blue background and two hospital waiting room chairs. The venue didn’t use Epic’s poster, instead going with a public image of Franco to advertise the show.

It’s not that Franco’s people never heard of the show. In classic RI fashion, there was someone who knew someone, several times over, and scripts made their way into the hands of people who said that although it was unlikely he would read it, they were certain he would find the concept funny.

Broccoli did his homework regarding satire and intellectual property, the latter of which is non-existent in this show. In fact, the show has nothing to do with James Franco, despite the fact that most of the great lines are written for the James Franco character. This very personal show is really about Broccoli’s journey. This play could have easily been Joey McIntyre and Me or Angela Lansbury and Me. The famous person does not matter. And even if it did, Franco has been painted as a sympathetic observer of Broccoli’s soul searching. There are moments in the show when Broccoli stops and apologizes for some of the lines; it gives a feeling that this entire scenario is a coping mechanism. “To get that personal, I needed to do something ridiculous,” said Broccoli — something like have a conversation with a celebrity he never met. There are no direct quotes from Franco in this script, all his lines come straight from Broccoli’s amazing imagination.   

In true Broccoli fashion, he isn’t giving up so easily. The show will go on in August in Rhode Island, renamed ___  And Me. Broccoli will not be in the production, because he says the next time he performs it will be in New York. Proceeds from each performance go to charity; this August, it will be to the ACLU.

And at the end of all this, what would Broccoli say to James Franco if he was given the chance? “He should read the script!”

Several attempts were made to reach out to James Franco’s representation, but as of publication, there’s been no response.

Leave a Reply

Prove that you are human *

Previous post:

Next post: