Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: MAY 13, 2010
The first sounds you hear at the beginning of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” are the grunts and groans of a mutual orgasm. But as we find out over the course of this deliciously irresistible seriocomedy , it’s a lot easier to fall in bed than to fall in love. Especially when you’re over 40, and your life hasn’t exactly been a screaming success.
Though they had youthful plans and dreams, both Frankie and Johnny have had a tough time of it, and now they’ve both ended up in the same cheesy dive, where she’s a waitress and he’s a short-order cook. This is their first date, but persistent, insistent, amorous Johnny is convinced that this is the first day of the rest of their lives together. He’s having trouble persuading the hard-edged Frankie, who’s been burned and beaten by men before, has built up a tough, sarcastic exterior and is fearful of letting go. “I’m runnin ’ out of time,” he says. “People are given just one moment to connect.”
They’ve both got warts and moles and plenty of baggage. They’ve both been hurt, despairing and lonely. But Johnny is ready to open his heart – to the moon, to the “most beautiful music in the world” – and to Frankie. With his wild disquisitions, hyperverbal outbursts and relentless romanticism, he gradually breaks down her wall of defense, bit by reluctant bit. She accedes, then retreats. He keeps advancing. His edgy, needy pushiness frightens her. But his deep, focused attention, his comical openness and unvarnished honesty finally get to her.
The play is a paean to ‘it’s never too late,’ to taking a risk, buying one last ticket for the tunnel of love. Even for the most hopeless, there’s the possibility of hope.
Terrence McNally’s 1987 duet is insistently funny and frank and filled with naked emotion. And yes, there’s the other kind of nakedness, too, since a good deal of the action takes place in bed. There’s raunchy language as well, if you happen to be sensitive to that sort of thing. But if that keeps you away from ion theater , you’d really be missing out.
In the small, intimate space, we’re voyeurs into this perfectly messy, totally believable New York tenement apartment. Under the astute direction of Claudio Raygoza , every moment feels authentic.
DeAnna Driscoll and Jeffrey Jones are two of San Diego ’s most solidly dependable and compelling actors. They’re completely genuine, credible and seemingly spontaneous. If these aren’t people you know, you can certainly identify with their feelings. They’re terrific together, combustible in their chemistry and heat.
So go watch them sizzle; laugh, sigh, and lose your heart along with Frankie and Johnny. And bask in the magic of ‘Clair de Lune’ moonlight – of the McNally and the Debussy kind.
“Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” runs through June 1, at ion theater’s BlkBox space in Hillcrest.
©2010 PAT LAUNER