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I dig jazz and single-malt scotch.  I write plays; I direct them too. I love STAR WARS more than is healthy. I walk my dogs every day, unless it's raining or terribly cold.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hartford Stage's Frankie and Johnny - the designers shine brightest



Last night I went with friends up to Hartford Stage to take in their season finale Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrance McNally. We had a fun night out, but it was the company i was with as much as the show itself.

This Frankie and Johnny played by Robert Clohessy and the single-named Portia were a good pair, especially Clohessy, who seemed most comfortable in the role and in the large space at Hartford Stage. It took longer to warm to Portia's Frankie, partly because she was prone to shouting for the first fifteen minutes or so, and the other part due to passive stage dynamic.

This show is built and designed for heavy-wieghts to tackle, and anything less is a little like yesterday's fish.

Which may be why whenever this show is written about the first paragraph or two is always devoted to the previous pairings -- Kathy Bates and Kenneth Welsh; Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci; Rosie Perez and Joe Pantoliano; or the film with Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino.

This show was good. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't rocked by it, it didn't hit me in the gut, and I believe the play has the potential to pack a wallop. This production tickled me.

There were times that I found myself more involved with the details of the realistic set than with the action of the play. "Hey, the refridgerator light works, but the refridgerator doesn't run. Probably means the food isn't actually cold." "Hey, that's real water running in the sink. Wonder how they rigged that? Do they turn off the valve at night after the show?" "Lookit the pepper -- it looks ike they started using that one on Thursday, they'll have to use a new one tomorrow, and what happens if they run out of bread?" And so on.

It turns out that all of my friends had similar thoughts turning thru their heads too.

Why doesn't Frankie eat more of her sandwich? Why is Johnny's bread toasted too (we concluded that something was going wrong with the toaster)? Is that a real stove? With all of this reality, couldn't they have taken an hour or so of rehearsal to instruct Mr. Clohessy in the proper way to slice vegetables (since it is remarked upon about how skillful he is with a knife)? Hmmm.

At the top of the show there was the coolest effect of a car passing below the warehouse loft, it's lights shining past the giant glass windows in a stream. It was used twice at the top of the show, and once at the end. A nice trio following the rule of three, and a nice deign choice. Also, the sunrise and the ever brightning and defining NYC skyline was beautiful. But I found myself watching that rather than the actors.

So, we had a nice time. If you go you'll probably have a nice time too, but my feeling upon leaving the theater is that the stakes were not dire at the Hartford Stage last night for its mismatched lovers, it was n't all or nothing, it was medium-rare, pleasant, but nothing special.

Tickets to Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune at Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street in downtown Hartford, CT will be available by calling (860) 527-5151. For more information, visit www.hartfordstage.org.

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