Fells Point Corner Theatre presents an absorbing 'Frankie and Johnny'

January 24, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

The Spotlighters production of Barbara Lebow's drama "A Shayna Maidel" is opening tomorrow night. The opening of the show was incorrect in the Accent Plus section Jan 24. The play, which deals with the effects of the Holocaust on one family, will run through March 3.

Loud sensual sighs, moans and intimate laughter can bheard from a bed on a darkened stage during the opening scene in Terrence McNally's "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune," currently on stage at the Fells Point Corner Theatre through Feb. 10.

This pungent drama of two ordinary middle-aged people struggling to develop a real relationship after their passionate one-night stand is sometimes pretty graphic but more often poignant. The great humor as the two square off springs from the anguish of their personal experience.


Directed with a light yet perceptive touch by Richard Jackson, this very "today" play depicts a slice of everyday life that is big in its universality.

In this case, the story is set in a shabby, walk-up tenement in New York. Frankie is a pragmatic waitress taking life on its hard, realistic terms and Johnny, the dreamer, is a short-order cook in the same cheap establishment trying to change his life for the better.

In the cool-down period after the love-making session (to the tune of Debussy's "Claire de Lune") all Frankie wants is for Johnny to leave so she can comfortably watch television and eat ice cream. But Johnny has other ideas. With pressing urgency he announces he is in love with Frankie and wants to marry her. He says that "people are only given one moment to connect and if they don't take it is gone forever."

Embittered by her own past "connections," Frankie scoffs behind her protective wall of disbelief trying to quell his romantic ravings with sarcastic barbs. She wonders if "this guy is for real or some perverted creep."

Johnny, however, is undaunted in his quest and constantly pierces her wall of resistance with his philosophical and ingenuous nature. The pair go round and round, sparring verbally until some semblance of a "connection" begins to emerge.

In his play, McNally touches on most of the basic crises that two people face in the mating ritual. There is blame and counter blame and stream of consciousness revelations. Frankie takes everything Johnny says literally and he speaks in metaphors.

It is a whole courtship happening in one night, backward. The gold of McNally's work is to show that one can switch his or her life around. That out of the ashes of negativity and loneliness comes the promise of a true and steady love (maybe).

As performed by Gloria Henderson and Mark E. Campion, the FPCT version is thoroughly amusing and engrossing. Henderson a delight, truly capturing the crux of her character. She makes an excellent gradual transition from severe skepticism to grudging optimism.

Campion, a usually strong performer, does well but his energy level is too low and he is using a high voice range instead of his normally resonant tones. This weakens the character since it gives him no place to go.

The qualities of terrible need and desperation are the missing elements in Campion's interpretation. He has to be a rapid-fire talker bombarding Frankie with the power of his words. If he stops talking he may lose her, he thinks.

But this is still a very worthwhile production and Fells Point Corner Theatre is to be commended again for bringing new and different works from New York's off-Broadway to Baltimore's own Broadway scene.


Opening tomorrow night at the Spotlighters Theatre is Barbara Lebow's drama "A Shayna Maidel," a play showing the effects of the Holocaust on one family after World War II. The featured speaker for tomorrow's performance only will be Deli Strummer, a survivor of five concentration and death camps and author of "A Personal Reflection of the Holocaust," published by Aurich Press in Baltimore.

Strummer was formerly a medical research assistant at Sinai Hospital before she retired and is now conducting a grief recovery group at Sinai for the benefit of widowed people.

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