Terrance McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune opened last weekend at the lovely and intimate Shō: Art, Spirit and Performance Working Studio on Monmouth in Walkerville. It’s a modern play that touches the two extremes of love and relationships in a whirlwind of emotion and sexuality. If you get to see this show and you don’t feel like you’re peeping in a window at people you know, then you must be on some sort of life support system.
This Tony nominated story ripped and pulled at every emotion for two hours and had the Saturday night audience laughing one minute and on the verge of tears the next. But this wasn’t a roller-coaster of jumbled emotions jerking aimlessly, it played out each scenario and progressed to reach the emotional extremes that makes this such a passionate story.
It’s a bittersweet play about the forging of a relationship between two lonely midlife lovers who met at work. Johnny, a short-order cook in a diner, goes home with Frankie, a waitress, for a one-night stand. Johnny desperately tries to crack Frankie’s hardened heart before she sends him home, and they lose their chance at love.
It’s a compassionate and vibrant work where the characters are real people in recognizable situations. The director and actor combo of Elinor Price and Matthew Maenpaa were near perfect in the roles of Frankie and Johnny – there wasn’t a patron in the place that didn’t feel like the play was talking about them and retelling the points in the show that closely resembled their own relationships. Me included.
Price was adorable as the relationship-confused Frankie and made her debut on the stage emerging from a bed dressed in nothing but her bra and underwear after a noisy and bed quaking sex scene played out in the darkly-lit opening sequence. Maenpaa was equally ravishing as the cocky and needy Frankie. He also emerged from the bed wearing only loose boxer briefs. From there on in, the clothes go on and off throughout the show, just as much as the emotions switch from all out sex to playful puppy love to verbally assertive and even screams of anger. If Price and Maenpaa aren’t actually in a real-life relationship, the audience would almost feel let down after such a strong performance.
Price has been working in theatre for the last decade and has an impressive list of credits, including the horror flick Wick, which earned her an award for Best Actress at the Upstate New York Horror Film Festival in 2015. Locally, she’s directed plays at the Capitol Theatre and Shō: Art, Spirit and Performance Working Studio. Maenpaa has an equally impressive list of credits, including theatre and film work. They both graduated from the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles.
This production was produced by Elizabeth and Alexandra Dietrich of Dietrich Productions, with co-producer Peter Billing.
Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune has been produced on and off-Broadway since 1987, earned several Tony nominations and was adapted into a 1991 film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino. This local production runs at the Shō: Art, Spirit and Performance Working Studio until Saturday, April 22 with performances on Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets are $25.