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James Franco's 'The Long Shrift' falls flat

James Franco's directorial debut on the New York stage has been ...

James Franco's directorial debut on the New York stage has been savaged by critics.

The Spider-Man star, who is currently starring in a Broadway production of "Of Mice and Men," has also been working on an off-Broadway show. His staging of Robert Boswell's play "The Long Shrift," starring his ex-girlfriend Ahna O'Reilly, opened at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater on Sunday night and received scathing reviews from critics.

Variety's Marilyn Stasio calls the play "preposterous" and "phony" and takes aim at lead actor Scott Haze, accusing him of mimicking his director's acting style, writing, "Unfortunately, Franco isn't the star but the director of this play, and he's entrusted the lead to a thesp who hasn't a clue what to do - except imitate James Franco."

Frank Scheck of the New York Post gives the production one star out of five and writes, "Somehow, between doing eight shows a week of 'Of Mice and Men,' teaching, making movies and flirting on Instagram, James Franco's found time to make his stage directorial debut. Judging from his work on 'The Long Shrift' ... there's a limit to his talents."

The New York Times' Alexis Soloski also had harsh words for Franco's work, calling the show "untidy, at times annoying, at times ridiculous," but added, "Mr. Franco achieves mixed success as a first-time Off Broadway director. The rhythms of the first scene are a mess, a section at the reunion too sensational... and many of the lines sound downright weird in the actors' mouths. Yet Mr. Franco elicits emotionally vivid performances from his cast."

Franco previously won mixed reviews for his Broadway acting debut in "Of Mice and Men" and chastised New York Times writer Ben Brantley with a foul-mouth rant for giving his performance a less-than flattering review.

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