WE don’t always have to ask too much of the theatre. A play ought to, at the very least, engage and entertain, even if only for its running time.
Should the performances of the actors impress, along with the sparkling dialogue penned by the playwright, and the tightness conveyed by the director, you’re definitely winning. If it touches your heart and provokes thought in the moments or days afterwards, well that’s wonderful too. When all of this happens at the same time, you’ve struck gold.
And so it is with Frankie And Johnny In The Claire de Lune, performed by Shannyn Fourie and Alistair Moulton Black. The play, written by Terrence McNally, is on at the intimate Alexander Theatre until this Saturday, July 7.
The setting is Frankie’s small Hell’s Kitchen apartment, where we open with her and Johnny having what appears to be pretty great sex following a fairly mediocre date. Afterwards, Frankie wants him to get out as soon as possible, while Johnny wants to get married and have kids.
During the 70 minutes of the play we learn more about these characters and why they want – or don’t want – the things they do, as they open up and reveal themselves to each other and the audience. It’s funny and sweet and sad and raw and revealing, and ultimately – I thought, because I still desperately want to believe in love and romance and happy endings – hopeful.
Afterwards, I had a quick chat with Shannyn and Alistair to learn more about their thoughts on the play.
“Well, Johnny is one of the more needy people in the world,” understates Alistair. “At first I battled with that, from a character point of view…how does someone like this exist in the world and it’s not just irritating? And far-fetched almost. Why does he have to get everything he wants in this night? Why can’t it wait?
“And in finding the reason for that, I found the truth for him: he’s just had so many disappointments and losses, and he’s thinking ‘this is too good to be true and therefore if I blink it will be gone and it will be like all those other failures I’ve had in my life’.
“And then it creates that real sadness in him, and that need, and I needed to understand that before I could believe it. I felt for him.”
Shannyn says the character of Johnny is a very big energy as well. “It’s all-consuming and he tends to not listen to other people; he’s on his own tangent!”
Seeing Frankie as the answer to all his problems, Johnny places a lot of expectations at her feet for her to live up to. “That’s a big ask! Any woman would be petrified of that!” laughs Shannyn.
Alistair believes that’s the problem with so many relationships: “People put too much emphasis on it, really, and they rely too heavily on the other person to make them happy.”
While Johnny is putting all this pressure on Frankie, she keeps saying he doesn’t know her, and should get to know her. “I think from Frankie’s perspective, she’s dealing with old trauma. She’s been abused in previous relationships so to protect herself, she’s closed that off,” explains Shannyn.
Opening herself up to someone raises the question for Frankie whether she will be taken care of this time, or will she end up in the same situation? “I think Frankie also knows she’s limited,” says Shannyn. “She doesn’t have high education, and she finds herself in a world which is hard work.”
There are two conversations taking place on the stage, continues Shannyn: love over fear. “That’s so relatable.”
Directed by Tamryn Spears, Frankie And Johnny In The Claire de Lune is at Alexander Theatre from Tuesday, July 3 until Saturday, July 7 at 9pm nightly. For more information and to book, click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: MISS HEPBURN PHOTOGRAPHY