What happens when you combine a three decade old two hander by one of our greatest living playwrights with two of our finest stage actors? Magic at the Broadhurst Theatre, that’s what.
“Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune” is a passionate defense of reaching out for love against all odds. When co-workers from an unnamed New York diner finish a first date with a satisfying and energetic sexual encounter, waitress Frankie (Audra McDonald) wants nothing more than for newly hired short order cook Johnny (Michael Shannon) to get dressed and leave. The fact that he won’t is somewhat jarring in today’s sensibilities but then it would be a far shorter and less captivating play. He uses Shakespeare and flattery and exposes his own soul to lure Frankie into a long winded, night long debate about his need, their need, for connection. We discover that both have tried unsuccessfully before to make a lasting relationship, for his own reasons, this is a necessity tonight.
Both of these actors are some of the finest on the boards in the city. Audra McDonald lights up every stage she appears on and brings an emotional depth and resilience to the role. Michael Shannon is exceptional and carries the evening with his insistence that he will not take no for an answer but he will achieve that through persuasion and not force. Director Arin Arbus keeps the evening moving smartly and scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez provides the spot on cramped New York apartment. His mechanics at the end of the play mirror the opening up and new vistas of the script.
I was thrilled to see the last Broadway mounting of this work featuring Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco. Mr. McNally is fortunate to have such brilliant talent representing his work on Broadway. We are lucky to have such a compelling and entertaining example of his work. See it before you must wait another generation to see this wonderful script in action.