Stage Director James Franco Gets No Love for 'Emotionally Bogus' Debut

James Franco, while starring in a Broadway play, directed an Off-Broadway play, because James Franco.

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James Franco, while starring in a Broadway play, directed an Off-Broadway play, because James Franco. So how did he do? The verdict: not so great, though it's not entirely his fault.

Critics evaluating the play, Robert Boswell's The Long Shrift, don't put all the blame on first-time stage director Franco, liberally taking jabs at the actors and the playwright. The play, which runs through August 23 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, concerns the character of 28-year-old Richard (played by Scott Haze, a regular in Franco's films) returning to his high school reunion after getting out of prison for the rape of a classmate, who has now recanted. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called the play an "emotionally bogus wannabe Sam Shepard effort, which basically teaches us that all men have the capacity for violence while all women are prone to lapses of hysterical finger-pointing and manipulation."

Rooney argues that the "stand-and-deliver approach of Franco's staging does nothing to alleviate the talky drama's static nature or disguise its wonky construction." While New York's Jesse Green gives Franco credit for devoting some of his attention to "serious theater," he argues that "Franco’s production keeps it stalling. The pace of the 100-minute play is generally lugubrious, except when it’s slower."  And though contending that he "elicits emotionally vivid performances" from the cast, Alexis Soloski of the New York Times writes that the "rhythms of the first scene are a mess, a section at the reunion too sensational (as are Richie’s prison tats), and many of the lines sound downright weird in the actors’ mouths." Robert Hofler of The Wrap says that Franco weirdly directs for comedy in the drama; that he "goes for a few laughs that only expose the story's flaws.

So things didn't go that well for Franco this time around. At least he has acting/writing/directing movies/painting/teaching/studying/selfie-taking to fall back on.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.