For three weeks, starting Friday, April 29th, Arouet Productions will present ‘pay-what-you-can’ performances of the Terrence McNally play ‘Frankie & Johnny In The Claire de Lune,’ at the DownStage of Stone Soup Theatre.
Arouet Productions’ mission statement gives their intent to present works that speak of civil rights, and a celebration of differences. ‘Frankie & Johnny’ director and producer, Roy Arauz, explained his choice of this work due to its fundamental message. “Love is for everyone,” Arauz explained, even those less than movie star glamorous.
What’s Eating Them?
Set in a tiny, New York apartment, the play concerns two prickly, but sympathetic, people, with infrequent interruptions by a radio announcer, pre-recorded by John Epperson. The performance really depends upon the talents of Greg LoProto as Johnny and Meredith Binder as Frankie.
As experienced actors, both were familiar with this work before rehearsals started as it is often excerpted for acting scenes. Yet, when it came to performing the whole work, LoProto admitted that he’s never done anything this long, this uninterrupted – the actors sustain a conversation throughout the work – or among, “two mostly undressed people.” While Binder admitted to banning her husband from seeing the show, she admitted that when it came to the nudity, “the only thing I was nervous about was sitting on a chair in a robe that short.”
The play is intimate, about two people breaking down physical and emotional barriers between them. Portraying that may be difficult, but the actors had bigger worries. “I’m terrified about all the food,” LoProto admitted, “when I can chew, when I have to speak…”
On-stage, Johnny makes an omelet – including dicing onion and peppers – while Frankie assembles a meatloaf sandwich. During the show, they consume ‘milk’, ‘beer’, and an apple. “I usually love eating on stage,” Binder admitted, “but not in this play because the dialogue is too fast.” As for the omelet, LoProto admitted, “it stays in the pan, and it gets a little burnt.”
As Everyone Gets To Know One Another
“I felt very strongly about producing this at Stone Soup,” explained Arauz, “I wanted the audience to feel they are in the room.” In the DownStage, the audience can feel almost voyeuristic, but the actors appear to enjoy that feature. “We get to be very subtle,” LoProto acknowledged, with Binder chiming in, “maybe too subtle.”
Arauz has extensive experience staging huge, classic productions, and described his work as director on ‘Frankie & Johnny’ as “very intense. It’s as intense as directing a production of ‘Annie’ with thirty people.” Along with the actors, he had to find key moments in the play, and ways to underscore them among all the words and movement (and food.) Ultimately, he admitted, directing this smaller work took as much time as a large production.
“We are sticking to the script,” Arauz insisted. While set in the 1980s, when McNally wrote the play, Arauz saw no reason to update it. According to LoProto, “Terrence McNally plays are about these people, in this time,” and even extremely vague references to a by-gone era can be foundational – the play would not move forward the same way if Frankie had an iPod instead of a radio, with a live announcer taking call-ins.
Yet, this production has taken advantage of new mediums. Binder and LoProto have expanded their repertoire and expanded the lives of their characters through a set of promotional videos, including dating service videos for Frankie and Johnny, and Johnny’s worst date.
To see where those experiences will take them, and to meet the original ‘Frankie & Johnny,’ as well as hearing the beautiful, haunting music of Claude Debussy, and ‘Claire de Lune’, attend one of the limited performances between April 29th and May 14th. Purchase tickets – ‘pay-what-you-can’ – by credit card at Brown Paper Tickets, or reserve a seat by e-mail or at 425/298-3852, or at the doors. Just make sure you take advantage of this opportunity, while it lasts.
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©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.