James Franco and Me: Playful Theater at its Finest

It is hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of Kevin Broccoli or his theater, Epic Theatre Company. They are known for taking risks and experimenting with the art of theater, and their newest selection, James Franco and Me, certainly fits that bill. You may not think that a two-person show where the playwright has a conversation with one of Hollywood’s most accessible and recognizable stars would be something that experimental. However, it is how this show is staged that gives it that extra Epic touch. You see, in every performance there is a different Franco. That may seem like a hassle for rehearsals, but here’s the kick — there weren’t any rehearsals. All 13 Francos, and Broccoli, learned their lines on their own. There was no exploration through rehearsals, no learning about your scene partner. They “meet” on stage in front of the audience, and are on their own. Well … not entirely on their own. It would be painful for an audience to watch someone truly flounder onstage, so Broccoli devised a safe word. If an actor calls, “Franco!” they immediately grab the scene from an audience member, and then the pair have no choice but to read the scene on book. Because, as they point out, there is nothing more humiliating than that. (Although the night I attended, “Franco!” was called and it was not humiliating or painful to watch. It actually added an additional element of fun to the evening.)

The Franco I saw was T.J. Curran who is a  very tall guy with a shaved head … basically the opposite of Franco. It didn’t matter. Curran did such a spectacular job playing this role, that he was James Franco. He was a perfect match to Broccoli’s acting chops. In fact, his monologue about Of Mice and Men was something that everyone should experience.

The concept of having a different actor every night was not the only thing that makes this a night of can’t-miss theater. Broccoli’s script is a well-formulated story that takes you through some serious moments, but is chock full of fantastic one-liners. Lines like “I emotionally cut off my arm” and “He’s on FOX, a step above porn” had the audience rolling in their seats. And anytime I’m out watching a show and hear an audience member say, “Oh, damn,” in the middle of a scene, it’s further evidence that what I’m watching is extraordinary. If you haven’t seen an original Kevin Broccoli piece you are missing out; some of his monologues have this Aaron Sorkinesque feel to them that is a pure joy to witness!

James Franco and Me played at The Artist’s Exchange on Saturday the 26th at 8pm, and two shows on the 27th at 3pm and 7pm.  

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