Review: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, starring Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon

May 30, 2019

Terrence McNally's play is back on Broadway, featuring two great actors. Though it initially feels like a timeless love story about two imperfect people, it falls victim to time, leaving it feeling dates with the audience squirming in their seats. 


Since Frankie and Johnny is a two person play in one setting, it becomes a vehicle to put two great actors back on Broadway, though it runs out of steam before it gets to the end. While it is a treat to see both Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon onstage, the weaker aspects of the show are glaringly obvious with nothing to hide them.


The characters of Frankie and Johnny have to have chemistry that makes you believe they are falling in love despite their flaws. What comes off instead is that he just wants to get her back in bed, ignoring any grievances she tries to air and ignoring requests as basic as leaving her apartment. Though the play was written and performed three decades ago, it leaves one with a sour feeling in the modern era, as it is essentially watching a man refuse a woman's requests to leave her alone while only seeming to care about her because of her sexuality and not personality. 


Frankie and Johnny is, at its core, a character study. But what fails to come through in this production is the essence of those characters. So much is overshadows by how unsettling some of the events that take place are that you find yourself only focusing on what is wrong with the story. However, the technical elements from the set to the lighting design become the unexpected standouts of the show. 


While Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon are giving good performances, they don't do enough to offset how dates the play feels in front of a modern audience, no matter how hard they may try. 


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