Members of UNCG’s theater department gave a stellar performance of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” Friday. A story about how two people with seemingly contrasting personalities discover that they are kindred spirits, “Frankie and Johnny and the Clair de Lune” inspired audience members to consider what it means truly to connect with another human.
After a one-night rendezvous, Johnny (Michael Tourek), a spontaneous, compulsive cook, thinks he has found the love of his life in Frankie (Julie Robles), a waitress who works in the same restaurant.
Frankie, on the other hand, is ready to get back to her nightly routine of watching TV and eating ice cream. Though she is hopeful that Johnny will depart, he reveals that he has other plans.
Convinced that their relationship could be amazing, he remains at Frankie’s dingy New York apartment, insisting that they should continue to spend time together. Asserting that life is cheap and short, Johnny is desperate to build a loving connection with Frankie as he easily opens up to her with amusing and heartrending anecdotes.
At first, Frankie thinks it is ridiculous that Johnny has fallen so quickly for her. She finds his stories and affectionate stares to be intense and creepy until she realizes his sincerity. Yet, because she has had her share of failed romances, she is hesitant to connect with him.
Throughout the evening, the two gradually begin to genuinely open up to one another through conversations, altercations and confessions.
All the while, classical music plays in the background, seemingly participating in the dialogue and molding aspects of the play together as though it’s a character itself.
Tourek and Robles impressively sustained the show during its entire two-hour running time as the only two actors on stage. Both actors magnificently portrayed two disappointed and complex middle aged individuals. Tourek depicted Johnny’s layered personality with honesty and excellence. Robles didn’t hold back as Frankie used sarcasm and insults as a defense mechanism against her vulnerability.
“One of the greatest challenges of being an actor is constantly searching out risk, embracing it and allowing it to be there when it’s scary,” director Sarah Hankins said as she explained the importance of living in the moment while onstage.
“It’s a huge challenge to do a play with just two characters and make it fascinating and not stagnant and continue to tell the story over and over— to bring it to an arc,” Hankins continued. “It could be just two people sitting and talking without a lot of drama, and instead this is a really captivating love story.”
Tourek and Robles truly did just that. The both did an excellent job of turning an evening of conversation into an epic love story.
Hankins admitted that when she initially learned she was assigned to direct “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” she was less than excited.
“I was like, ‘Oh, that old thing?!’” Hankins laughed. “I tell you what, I cannot believe I thought that because it’s such a great play. I feel like it’s a story that almost everybody can relate to. If you’ve ever been in love and you’ve been hurt in love, you could find something in this play to relate to.”
When it comes to directing, Hankins strongly believes that putting on a performance relies heavily on aspects of how a story is told.
“I think so much of great theater is created by storytelling,” Hankins explained. “What’s the story you’re trying to tell? Why is it important? What about that story makes it captivating and necessary?”
Hankins’ philosophy about the importance of storytelling brilliantly shone through during this play. Both hilarious and heartbreaking, UNCG’s production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” captivated and surprised audience members as it traced the beginning of an unlikely romance.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, featured, Shannon Neu, Visual & Performance
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