Nearly a quarter-century old, Terrence McNally’s play “Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune” has several difficulties for any director that don’t seem so prevalent now in modern theater. Two people in a room, with action that happens in real time, going from a one-night stand to something that looks like full-time commitment. And though it joshes with the ideas of pre-1940s romance, it’s unabashedly romantic, just unglamorous. It presents us with earnestness and asks us to take it seriously.
Fortunately Saundra McClain is up for this task and has delivered a fitting curtain call for the Ensemble’s most recent season and for the Alhecama Theater. The next production will open in the Victoria, so regardless of this review, realize this is your final chance to experience the cozy ambience of the Alhecama.
In 1987, director Saundra McClain was living in New York City in Manhattan Plaza, the “Miracle of 42nd Street,” the 45-floor artist housing complex. Across the street was a small theater where a two-person play, “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” opened. “I have no recollection of it. I just remember two people on stage.” (Those two people, by the way, were Kathy Bates and F. Murray Abraham). She’s not being glib, just a statement of fact and a life filled with playgoing.
And it helps to not remember anything particular when you wind up directing your own version, set to premiere Thursday at the Alhecama Theatre.