Frankie and Johnny In the Claire De Lune
Under the tender, insightful direction of Mark Peckham, Emily Lewis and Chris Perrotti deliver extraordinarily genuine, heartfelt performances.by Christopher Verleger, EDGE
Love can make us do some crazy things, or it can make us do nothing at all.
The man and woman featured in 2nd Story Theatre’s marvelous, endearing production of Terrence McNally’s 1982 play, “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune,” are both unmistakably struck by Cupid’s arrow, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready or even expected to live happily ever after.
Under the tender, insightful direction of Mark Peckham, Emily Lewis and Chris Perrotti deliver extraordinarily genuine, heartfelt performances as the titular characters who, after sharing intimacies on a foldout bed in a cramped New York City apartment, flirtatiously banter and fervently brawl over whether what they share is fleeting or could possibly last forever.
Co-workers at a restaurant, Frankie is a waitress pushing forty who has more than her share of baggage from failed relationships and Johnny is a short-order cook who, despite a divorce and spending time in jail, hasn’t given up on finding love and happiness.
This scantily clad pair first appears under the sheets in the throes of passion, followed by polite, affectionate pillow talk in the dark. As soon as the lights are turned on, a seemingly stoic Frankie expects her presumable one-night-stand to leave so she can enjoy a sandwich by herself with the lives of her neighbors in full window view to keep her company.
The hopelessly romantic Johnny, however, thinks differently. No sooner than after he puts his boxer shorts back on does he profess his love for Frankie. Ready to figuratively shout this revelation from the rooftop and anxious for a repeat roll in the hay, Johnny calls the classical radio station that has been playing in the background to request “the most beautiful music you’ve ever heard” and asks the deejay to dedicate it to them.
The two strangers spend the next hour getting better acquainted, making small talk while eating, occasionally laughing, but mostly arguing. They also discover what random facts they have in common — both are from Allentown, were abandoned by their mothers at age seven and called their grandmothers ‘Nana.’
The rhythmic highs and lows of their amusing, passionate conversation, coupled with the remarkable chemistry among these two superb actors, makes for engaging, inspiring and especially authentic theater. Lewis and Perrotti seamlessly convince the audience that this emotional rollercoaster ride is real — and familiar, to not just them but anyone ever overcome by matters of the heart.
I am an ardent fan of the playwright, and while I could rightfully suggest that some of his work is dated, this terrific production at 2nd Story is an important reminder that stories of love and romance are timeless.