Friday, 13 November 2015

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Nov 13, 2015 ***1/2

Written by Terrence McNally (1987)
At fortyfivedownstairs, until November 29, 2015 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars ***1/2
 Full review also published in Herald Sun online, Nov 13, 2015. It will appear later in print. KH
Damien Richardson &  Kate Kendall

The two damaged and lonely characters in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune appear to cram the first six months of their newborn relationship into a single, fraught night of love and conflict.

In Terrence McNally’s 1987 play, Frankie (Kate Kendall), a waitress, and Johnny (Damien Richardson), a short-order cook at the same New York restaurant, stumble into bed together only to find that their old, emotional wounds open when they try to communicate genuinely.

The action takes place over an uninterrupted night in Frankie’s dingy, Manhattan apartment that is evocatively and realistically recreated in the dim, cellar-like environment of fortyfivedownstairs (Design by Jacob Battista).

Director, Colette Mann, focuses on the complex and conflicted inner worlds of these two dysfunctional people as they navigate the bumpy ocean of new, mid-life love.

Richardson balances annoying bluster with blokey charm as the nervy, persistent, garrulous Johnny who, despite being a divorced ex-con estranged from his kids, remains naively romantic, although a bit too hasty in his declarations of undying love.

Kendall brings a brittle, suspicious edge to Frankie whose eagerness for Johnny to put on his clothes and leave her apartment stems from a dysfunctional, past relationship that left her fearful and emotionally damaged.

The harder Johnny pushes her to accept that they are soul mates and should marry and have kids, the faster Frankie backs away. 

Richardson and Kendall effectively explore the playfulness, drama and conflict in McNally’s snappy dialogue and flawed characters.  

Mann maintains a cracking pace in the fierce, funny and audacious early scenes although some of the shouting matches are too loud and overwhelming while the sudden emotional shifts are not always credible. 

The final, sweet and intimate scenes are the most touching when Frankie and Johnny finally find their common rhythm in the pale, morning light and settle into an amiable, domestic peace.  

The Clair de Lune of the title refers to Debussy’s soothing, atmospheric music that triggers a poignant moment when a late-night radio DJ answers Johnny’s request for a romantic tune. 

This is a funny and moving performance by two talented, well-known and engaging performers.  

Kate Herbert

Damien Richardson &  Kate Kendall

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