July 23, 2019
Dear Friends of Theatre for a New Audience:
I’m writing about Terrence McNally’s FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIRE DE LUNE on Broadway starring Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon and directed by Arin Arbus.
The production must close July 28. Here’s why you should you see it.
The play’s been called a romantic comedy. It is very funny and it is about love, but it is about much more. Frankie and Johnny have by their own assessments failed in love and just about everything else. And one night, these unlikely lovers happen to get together for a one night stand. After sex, they realize there’s a choice. As Johnny says, “We gotta connect. We just have to. Or we die.” It’s a frightening and kind of crazy proposition. After all, they just met.
What follows is an exquisite and sensitively performed pas de deux. There is not one false move. The play is always alive and surprising. We can’t stop engaging with Frankie and Johnny because Mr. McNally’s words and characters take aim at our hearts and minds and won’t let us go and because Ms. McDonald and Mr. Shannon create a kind of electric charge that only two utterly opposite kinds of extraordinary artists generate. And, all of it has been beautifully orchestrated by Ms. Arbus making her Broadway debut.
Arin Arbus was associate artistic director at TFANA for ten years where she directed critically acclaimed productions of Shakespeare. At times, the wit, wariness and passion of Frankie and Johnny are reminiscent of Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING which Ms. Arbus staged at TFANA.
Music, of course, is important in Shakespeare’s plays and music is a constant presence in FRANKIE AND JOHNNY especially Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune — French for moonlight. Music allows us to dream. We imagine. I won’t spoil it, but the ending set to music is what happens when for a moment our consciousness expands and we have more space. FRANKIE AND JOHNNY invites us to discover that sometimes this space and expansion can be found in love and we can experience transcendence for a moment.
Founding Artistic Director
Theatre for a New Audience