‘Frankie & Johnny,’ Intimately Told

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The Bridge theater at the Bridgehampton Community House most perfectly lends itself to the intimacy needed to best tell the story of Terrence

McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune.” It’s here, on the small black box stage, that Frankie’s entire studio apartment—complete with bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette—lies mere feet from the audience, to great effect.

The show, directed by Joshua Perl, begins in darkness as the couple enters the stage in each other’s arms. The audience members can’t even see their silhouettes, but from the sound of it the lovers are mid-date. After several minutes, the “lights out” portion of the show ends and Frankie, played by Rachel Feldman, reaches up and switches on the light.

This production, which differs from others because there is no need for a suspension of disbelief, is completely in the moment. Lights don’t go on and off because the stage manager flips a switch. Instead, the actors tune the radio, dim the lights, crack open actual bottles of beer and even slice, sauté and cook an entire omelet right on stage. Stage manager Rae LaBourne did, however, seamlessly control the lighting for the sunrise, moonbeams and a really cleverly done television set.

That everything was so real and happening so close made the show somewhat voyeuristic. When Johnny, played by Seth Hendricks, dropped to the floor and started a serious set of push-ups, the audience not only heard his desperation to get through to Frankie, but actually saw the beads of sweat dripping off his brow.

This reviewer’s favorite moment from him came when Johnny described visiting his children at their stepfather’s grand home. Tears formed and glistened but never fell from his eyes as he described his own flat in the city, even smaller than the breadbox Frankie lived in. As for Ms. Feldman, her portrayal of Frankie was filled with emotional diversity. She struggled with trusting Johnny, her face softening when she started to let her guard down and then sharpened right back up when he pushed her too far.

The set design by Peter-Tolin Baker brilliantly incorporated the elements needed in the stage directions into a cohesive and easily managed space. The tiny kitchen was fully functioning, provided the characters (and the audience) the opportunity to experience the story from an olfactory sense as the aroma of an omelet sizzling in butter perfumed the air.

Bottom line: This intimate production was a treat for all the senses.

“Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” stages at the Bridge theater in the Bridgehampton Community House on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Saturday matinées at 2 p.m., through October 26. Tickets are $20 and available at fandj.eventbrite.com.

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