“People are given one moment to connect. Not two, not three, one! They don’t take it, it’s gone forever.”
Terrence McNally, never known as a shy playwright, opens his delightful two-hander “Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune” with the title characters in the noisy throes of a sexual encounter.
What’s the next step? Well, if you’re Johnny, it’s more sex. For Frankie, a little food is in order. What will become blindingly obvious very soon is that sex is easy and food is good, but connecting is difficult.
“Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune” plays through Feb. 23 in a just-right production at OnStage Playhouse. Jennifer Peters directs.
The pair in question are workmates: Frankie (Teri Brown) is a waitress and Johnny (Charles Peters) a short-order cook in a Greek (or Greek-owned) restaurant. Both have suffered dashed dreams and stunted hopes. Both are lonely, though they won’t both admit it.
Frankie has accepted the fact that her life is not as she’d hoped and has retreated into a comfortable routine. Though she’s enjoyed this encounter, what she wants now is for Johnny to go away and leave her to it.
Johnny isn’t about to do that. His history hasn’t been storybook either: his life has included a divorce, two kids he rarely sees, a forgery stretch in prison, a foster-home upbringing and the fact that he never finished high school. But this motormouth – who has a dictionary and Shakespeare in his locker – thinks he’s found the love of his life in Frankie. He’s not about to walk away now.
“People are given one moment to connect,” he tells her. “Not two, not three, one! They don’t take it, it’s gone forever.”
Can he convince her? Can they forget the “million reasons not to love one another” and leave it to the moon and “the most beautiful music ever written” (according to the radio DJ, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”)?
Brown (OnStage’s indefatigable artistic director) and Peters (who frequently appears on this stage) will make you laugh and cry as the never-say-die Johnny keeps hammering away at Frankie’s carefully erected self-protective shell.
Frankie’s somewhat messy, somewhat cramped Hell’s Kitchen apartment (credit Duane McGregor) seems just right for this working-class woman who can count many more disappointments than successes in her life.
Pam Stompoly-Ericson’s costumes look right as well, and lighting and sound are well handled by Chad Oakley and Steve Murdock, respectively.
Whether or not you’ve seen this play before, get down to OnStage for this production. There’s something so real, so universally relatable about McNally’s brilliant script, and Brown and Peters are so utterly convincing that missing it is unthinkable.
“Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune” plays through February 23, 2019 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Avenue (near F Street), Chula Vista.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
Tickets: (619) 422-7787 or www.onstageplayhouse.org