Alibi V.27 No.27 • July 5-11, 2018 

Theater News

Love is a Burning Thing

Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, a 20th century classic

The stars of Aux Dog Theatre’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
The stars of Aux Dog Theatre’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
Russell Maynor

It's 1987 in New York City. A first date leads to our two leads in bed together—and that's not the end of the story, it's really just the beginning. The play by Terrence McNally premiered Off-Broadway in the late ’80s, and is now making a stop in Nob Hill at Aux Dog Theatre (3011 Monte Vista Blvd. NE). Just ahead of its premiere (it opened June 22), director Kristine Holtvedt took some time to talk about the importance of the piece, and its tenure locally, through July 15. Find tickets and times at auxdogtheatre.org.

Alibi: Why did you want to produce this show locally?

Holtvedt: Aux Dog strives to bring New Mexico audiences the very best in theater [and] this play is a 20th century classic.

Why do you find it powerful?

As a director and actor, my interest is in exploring relationships between people—both as individuals and in groups. What we learn about ourselves through the conflict in our relationships and the crucible of our actions. Seeing this play out on stage—experiencing it viscerally—fascinates me. Most importantly, [playwright] Terrence McNally reaches us, the audience, through laughter. Laughter opens us up to receive the deeper meanings and wisdom that he communicates through his characters and their journeys. We laugh, then we discover something about them and ourselves. It’s through those insights that we can change. I think this is what McNally wants to give to the audience, a true catharsis, but delivered through laughter and joy, not tears and sorrow.

What messages does this play bear for audiences in Albuquerque?

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune is very specific in terms of its characters and era but, as like the best art, its very specificity is what makes it universal. It portrays our need for love, our fear of intimacy and the inner conflicts and pain that prevent us from truly reaching each other. The specific message of this play is: Take a chance at love! Jump in with both feet and both eyes wide open! … Also, it became so much easier in the second half of the 20th century to have sex with someone before we love them, or even know them. McNally explores this idea as well. After sex, what next?

What have you learned?

I always learn about the play once I hear the actors say the lines. It’s amazing, no matter how many times I read it—silently, out loud, scene by scene—and analyze it … I learn so much more when the actors bring the words to life. And then, I learn even more when the audience responds! The audience is the final piece of the puzzle and the other “character” in the production. So, working on a play is always a continual process of discovery for me.

What do you hope audiences might learn?

We want them to realize that a love story between a waitress and a short order cook that takes place in a tenement apartment … can impact them as greatly as any Shakespeare play or any classic of the theater. The subject matter is deceptively simple but the play really isn’t, at all. This play is a romantic comedy—really, one of the best—and I want the audience to laugh in recognition of their own foibles and fears, but I especially want them to feel joy.

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