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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune
It's been ten years since the Manhattan Theatre Club's Off-Broadway launch of Terrence McNally's funny and moving dramatic ode to the possibility of the impossible dream that connects two of life's lost and damaged losers. McNally's career has been on a steady upward swing ever since.
In 1991 those who missed this off-beat love story got to see a movie version which thanks to a screenplay by McNally and a terrific cast headed by Al Pacino and the unlikely, but surprisingly successful Michelle Pfeiffer, worked very well. Fine as the movie was, there's something special about the intimacy and single-set, two-character play that have given it "legs" to carry it to theaters throughout the United States and the world. Happily for Berkshire theater goers, a splendid production is enjoying a two week run at one of the area's most modest and interesting theatrical venues, The Miniature Theatre of Chester.
While rating symbols are reserved by copyright for movies, consider this R rated if you're squeamish about on stage nudity and sex. As soon as the play begins and cloaks Tim Holcomb's nicely detailed set in darkness you hear orgasmic moans coming from the direction of the opened sleep sofa. As the advance notices about the show warn, that sexually charged opening is not an isolated moment. Like any McNally play, however, people and not sex is what this play is about. And like all his work, the McNally hallmarks are all over the place, to be specific: Dialogue that's crisp and literate, funny and poignant. Lines like "I'm sick of living this way--like we're all going to die from each other" are, sad to say, as timely now as it was ten years ago.
Under Peter Bennett's able direction the story of Frankie and Johnny builds slowly--(somewhat too slowly during part of the first act)--towards its emotionallyhigh-voltage climax. Bonnie Black and Kevin McClarnon fully capture the pain and yearning that transforms this unlikely duo into the stars of a real life romantic opera. Ms. Black, who strongly resembles a young Julie Harris, has no problem being convincing as the no longer young survivor of the relationship wars. McClarnon gets deep underneath the muscled facade of the desperately needy Johnny. To move things along, there's also a third and very important character--the unseen but important off-stage announcer who plays "the most beautiful music in the world" because he wishes, as you will, that there "really is a Frankie and Johnny.""
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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