Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Frankie and Johnny from Casting Spells Productions

Shanan Custer and Charles Hubbell
I thought the Minneapolis Theater Garage was closing, but fortunately, this intimate space is still hosting shows, at least for now.

The newest resident of the Garage is Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, playing through December 6 and directed by James Detmar.

The two-person, one-set play fits perfectly into the compact space, designed by Jane Ryan as a (rather spacious) walk up apartment in New York's Hell's Kitchen Clinton neighborhood. Sid Korpi's props help bring the action back to 1987, when the play premiered.

The play opens on Frankie (Shanan Custer) and Johnny (Charles Hubbell), coworkers at a diner who have just hooked up after a date at Frankie's apartment. We hear the end of their lovemaking as the show begins.

(Sidebar: We were lucky enough to see the Broadway production of the show starring Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco, which was wonderful, but Tucci was naked for so long that it got a little bit hilarious.)

Back to Minnesota! Fortunately, as the Theater Garage is a quite intimate space, when the lights go up, they get dressed.

Cute promotional card
Frankie is already regretting this evening, and is ready for him to leave. However, Johnny's decided that they are meant to have a real relationship and spends the rest of the night trying to convince her to give him a shot. Of course she's been hurt before and he has his own secrets.

McNally's script has funny and poignant moments, but gets a bit repetitive, and has some elements of stalking that have not aged well over the years. Charles Hubbell gives a masterful performance that hits every note of Johnny's complex personality. Always an engaging performer, Hubbell is mesmerizing in this play.

Shanan Custer's Frankie comes off less well. Although Custer is a well-regarded comedienne (recently of Two Sugars, Room for Cream), Frankie is a pretty tough part (remember Michelle Pfeffer in the movie?) as the character tends to be the straight man to the vivid Johnny. Plus, I think Custer had a cold on opening night, which has to really suck as a performer. No calling in sick on opening night!

Eric Webster* also is heard in this play as the radio announcer. Webster, who is married to Shanan Custer, also acts regularly around town including a radio drama show called Shades Brigade--also starring Custer.

Casting Spells is branching into drama after being best known for their production of the musical fractured fairy tale mash-up Disenchanted. I'm looking forward to checking out their work in the future.

*PS by Carly: That would be the dulcet tones of Eric Webster, who used to host my favorite show on KLBB (formerly KLBB 1400 aka The Old People's Station), The Two-Martini Lunch. If you love standards, swing, jazz, the great American songbook, this was YOUR show. I still miss it!