Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
Midtown W
82

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune NYC Reviews and Tickets

82%
(428 Reviews)
Positive
89%
Mixed
10%
Negative
1%
Members say
Great acting, Absorbing, Funny, Great writing, Romantic

About the Show

Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald and Tony and Oscar nominee Michael Shannon bring new life to the bruised dreamers of Terrence McNally's timely and timeless romance.

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Member Reviews (428)

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70
Banal, Repetitive, Great acting, Unconvincing, Dated

See it if you are fans of AM/MS. Both give strg perfs. Highly realistic prodn, includes cooking, eating, brushing teeth, all-nude sex (tastefully lit)

Don't see it if you want a "woke" script. Even in 1987, J's char was creepy. He wants Fr and relentlessly pursues her. He's controlling/weird. Plot holes!

79
Clever, Raunchy, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if If you liked the movie and sensational acting. Shannon is a bit creepy in his role but good staging, and direction here. Very good.

Don't see it if If nudity bothers you and intense scenes about two wounded people. If you want a lighter play. If you want a more fun play to watch.

Critic Reviews (44)

May 30th, 2019

"Time has been good to 'Frankie and Johnny.' Its sentimentality hasn’t curdled the way it has in some of Mr. McNally’s many other plays...The obvious overstretching of the plot to fill two acts doesn’t matter as the play’s bigger mysteries click into place. What begins as a basic inquiry into the nature of love — is it blind or, as Johnny says, 'the exact opposite'? — slowly transforms into something deeper and eerier."
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May 30th, 2019

"When Johnny refuses to leave Frankie’s apartment, the creepiness factor is hard to avoid, especially since Shannon has used his lanky frame and craggy face to convey menace so successfully in the past. But for more than two hours, these highly gifted actors—directed by Arin Arbus, and beautifully lit by Natasha Katz—keep a sensitive focus on the gawky humanity of their characters, holding steady through the ups and downs of McNally’s emotional ride. They connect, and they draw us in."
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May 30th, 2019

"While McDonald and Shannon are both fun to watch, their turbulent chemistry alone doesn’t sustain McNally’s somewhat overstretched play...There’s also, for all the play’s wisecracking, just something not quite enjoyable in the way 'Frankie & Johnny' romanticizes a man pushing and pushing until he wears down a woman’s resistance...There’s a sweet, off-kilter, earthy chemistry between the down-to-earth McDonald and the hepped-up Shannon."
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May 30th, 2019

"It could be argued that the casting is not ideal...And yet, the brilliant actors make it work. McDonald superbly conveys her character's cynicism through world-weary body language and vocal inflections. And Shannon unveils his formidable, and too rarely seen, comic talents to hilarious effect; his Johnny is the funniest I've ever seen. If the resulting laughfest slightly dilutes the play's poignancy, McNally's writing is strong enough to provide the requisite emotion."
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May 30th, 2019

"Both spark off McNally’s crackling dialogue like they’re living the words off the page, breathing new air into his room-bound pas de deux. Ultimately, though, even their supreme handling of the material can’t quite justify shooting for this moon — already explored twice on a New York stage, and also onscreen — one more time."
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May 30th, 2019

"A sentimental reading would mean death for this surprisingly delicate two-hander...But helmer Arin Arbus and her high-toned cast of two – Michael Shannon, who can do anything, and Audra McDonald, who can do anything while looking gorgeous – bring this historical artifact to warm-blooded life...There’s always the danger that the story might seem shallow because nothing more than a love story is at stake. Nothing more, perhaps, than a love story, but my, how those lovers can love."
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May 30th, 2019

"The trouble is that Ms. McDonald is being called upon to play a working-class waitress who, according to the script, is a woman of 'striking but not conventional good looks' with a 'fairly tough exterior.' Ms. McDonald, by contrast, is an exceptionally beautiful woman...McDonald’s arresting physicality—every move she makes seizes the eye—goes a long way toward making up for her lack of Frankie’s natural earthiness, and it helps that Michael Shannon is more believably cast."
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May 30th, 2019

"McNally navigates the sexual politics of his losers-in-love hit with exquisite verve and sensitivity. Thirty-two years later, the play may show wrinkles in surface detail (what’s a VCR?) but its emotional terrain is fresh and exciting—and evergreen...I’m glad that this is my first exposure to a beautifully wrought piece of romantic naturalism, from a playwright who caresses and kisses each scar and mole on his protagonists’ well-traveled bodies."
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May 30th, 2019

"Arin Arbus seems fully aware of newfound and hard-won sensitivities, and neither dismisses them nor entirely clarifies the shadow they cast on this pre-Me Too era work. Whether that absence of resolution is an intentional commentary or a dramatic shortfall will likely have as many interpretations as there are audience members...That it survives instead as a testament to human connection speaks well of both the play and this production."
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May 30th, 2019

"The age of the work sometimes shows; its devices and its rhetoric are throwbacks. But with a lot of help from McDonald and a deceptively expressionistic set from Riccardo Hernandez, the director Arin Arbus effectively operates on the levels of the then and the now. In the best moments of the piece, you think about the different terms of relationships in the 1980s and also how so much and yet so little has changed."
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May 30th, 2019

"Like its lost-soul lovebirds, the play is likable, tender and funny — and has issues. The second half essentially repeats the first, making for a long-winded evening. But the performances make up for it, and director Arin Arbus adds a grace note with a sly shift in Frankie’s apartment."
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May 30th, 2019

"McDonald and Shannon deliver superb performances that combine hyper comedy with underlying vulnerability. However, the revival is misconceived physically, with a lighting grid stationed far too low below the actors and a flimsy exterior backdrop, which affects the extent to which the audience is drawn into the play...McDonald’s nervous and jaded Frankie contrasts nicely with Shannon’s kooky and intense Johnny...That being said, the play itself is very thin."
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May 30th, 2019

"While it’s beautifully acted by Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon, the dynamic between them seems dated. What made sense in 1987 now feels jarringly off-kilter...While it’s hard to buy their relationship, McNally’s gift for incisive dialogue makes Frankie and Johnny compelling as a pair of sadly conflicted survivors...A stronger directorial hand might have glossed over the play's less plausible parts, but there's no excuse for the production's clunky symbolism at play's end."
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May 30th, 2019

"Gorgeously acted, this sophisticated two-hander from 1987 offers some surprisingly prescient insights about love in the age of Tinder...McDonald and Shannon dexterously convey the push-pull tension between Frankie and Johnny: They're too old and jaded for it to be called flirtation, but also invested enough for it to never morph into sexual harassment."
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May 30th, 2019

"McNally's two-character play is wonderful. Director Arin Arbus' production, which handily deals with the 1987 piece's moments that might cause uneasiness with contemporary audiences, floats lovingly across the Broadhurst stage as co-stars Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon skillfully explore the delicate details of the many ways we may choose to expose ourselves to one another."
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June 7th, 2019

“McDonald and Shannon slip into their characters' battered souls, finding new shadings and tiny revelations that make them seem freshly conceived...McNally takes a faintly preposterous premise and convinces us that it is a plausible statement about the redeeming nature of romantic love...For all of the fireworks that flare during the play's two acts, it ends on a mundane, oddly touching, note that reinforces McNally's sensibility, which detects magic in the details of ordinary living.”
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May 30th, 2019

“Near-flawless revival...It is a play and a pair of performances whose richness lies in a million little details...Remarkably, none of this feels dated...McDonald and Shannon breathe so much truth into their characters...’Frankie and Johnny' is as open and honest about the human heart as anything you are likely to encounter on a Broadway stage, and the music that gives the play its title is reflected in the duet of the performances.”
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May 30th, 2019

"That McDonald plays Frankie so well is not surprising; she has repeatedly demonstrated that she can do just about anything...With McDonald and Shannon in Frankie and Johnny’s shoes, or rather bare feet, the stage is dazzled with lightning sparks of alternating current...Arbus carefully modulates her two powerhouse actors, not necessarily an easy task. The three of them, along with McNally, combine to creating an enchantedly moonlit evening."
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May 30th, 2019

"This impeccably performed production of McNally’s sweet, sad, and funny play, crisply staged by Arin Arbus, can feel nevertheless a bit sodden. For all the virtuosity on display, I’m not sure that we ever truly believe the characters, believe that these people are as lonely, and as needy, as the script requires them to be...Johnny, as played by the estimable Shannon, is a charmer, but he’s also overbearing, relentless, and slightly frightening."
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May 30th, 2019

“McNally’s exquisitely tender-creepy mating dance in a revival that perplexes as much as it delights...Arbus and her team work a bit too hard at making the dese-dem-dose point...The effort shows. Across two and a quarter hours, I never for a moment forgot that I was watching 'acting.' Terrific acting, to be sure, but never the kind that disappears into character and takes us out of ourselves, of the theater, of the time."
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May 30th, 2019

"Fortunately Shannon and McDonald — playing the only two characters onstage — as well as Arbus seem to be clearly aware of the minefields to be avoided. In the way that it’s played, we are constantly attuned to the tension that simmers between the two characters, the sense that they are both equals engaged in a complex emotional (and sexual) dialogue, in which matters of right and reason — and consent — continually send clouds scudding across the moonlight of romance."
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June 15th, 2019

"Given references to 'Prizzi's Honor,' 'Looking for Mr. Goodbar,' Haagen-Dasz Vanilla Swiss Almond, and VCRs, the otherwise effective revival of 'Frankie and Johnny' can feel rather dated. The play debuted, after all, in 1987, and McNally's ambition for realism makes such references natural, if not exactly necessary. But it's still a substantial look at a one-night stand between Frankie, a waitress, and Johnny, a short-order cook at the same off-stage restaurant."
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May 30th, 2019

"'Frankie and Johnny' tries so hard to delight us with uncompromised frankness and cleverness and moment-to-moment unpredictability that it begins to spin out of control and out of our willingness to give a hoot. The biggest obstacle this production has about two ordinary people is that neither McDonald nor Shannon can alter the fact that they are not ordinary but rather extraordinary actors simply having a good time romp."
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June 7th, 2019

“McDonald and her smashing co-star Michael Shannon perform a pas de deux that is perfection. McDonald’s outbursts are nothing short of an aria. Positively inspirational. Not to mention hilarious...McNally has bestowed a grace on these two lunatics. It is as if once they enter the arena, they are exposed to a kind of magic that engulfs them...Arbus's direction releases just the right amount of lunacy in these characters so that they end up willing to leap off the cliff of ‘possible.’”
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June 12th, 2019

“The two leading ‘love birds’ square off in this classic play, face to face before diving in and shedding all of their superfluous armor in an intense coming together that is, simply, a great start to this engagement. It’s clear once that first scene has come to its natural climax, that the two, dynamically played with a clarity for realistic pain and discomfort by the gloriously heart-breaking McDonald and the phenomenally determined Shannon, are on a difficult journey forward.”
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June 11th, 2019

"They are caricatures of under-educated people whose lives have gotten away from them. Worse, McNally seems to think, if you’re over forty, this is your absolute last chance at love so you should settle for this terrible person...It’s a strangely desperate gloss that this production never successfully addresses...The casting here is also a problem. McDonald may be dressed as dowdy as possible and yet still you feel like this beautiful woman could...do better than THIS GUY."
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T
May 30th, 2019

"Under Arbus’s exquisite direction, Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon play to perfection the EveryMan, EveryWoman, EveryOne seeking to overcome their finitude and fallibility to connect with another person in a meaningful way and establish a non-judgmental relationship against all odds. These two actors are stunning together...This is the best of the Broadway productions of 'Frankie and Johnny' and McNally’s play is more relevant today that perhaps it ever was."
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June 5th, 2019

"Ultimately lovely if overlong Broadway revival...The scene where he all but threatens her feels like a misstep, and probably could have been cut without discernible loss or damage to the whole...Still, even at its full two hours (plus intermission) over two acts, the play has enough humor, delicate pathos, specificity of detail, and psychological complexity to showcase McNally’s skills as a dramatist."
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C
May 30th, 2019

"Arbus treats much of the play's first act as an almost typical rom-com, focusing on McNally's sharp banter, jokes about farts and Brooklyn, and nostalgic small talk, all of which are clearly designed to cover up the couple's bigger feelings that will emerge in the second act. While this approach makes the pair feel a bit lightweight at times, it also has the major benefit of letting audiences witness McDonald's rarely-seen comic timing, which proves to be as expert as her dramatic one."
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June 6th, 2019

"For all the…lunar allusions,…moonlight little becomes the…dullish Broadway revival, even with such starry names as…McDonald and…Shannon…Given today's flood of 90-minute plays, this two-hour-and-15-minute revival could have used a trip to the editorial barbershop…By the end of Act One, Frankie and Johnny have had their ups and downs and come to a…resolution...In fact, it's easy to wonder why we need to return for a second act. Act Two fails to satisfy that question."
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May 30th, 2019

"The second act is repetitious and unruly and stretches the evening out too far. While I have unlimited admiration for Audra McDonald, her glamour and melodious voice work against her playing the beat-down Frankie. Michael Shannon is very much in his element. I thought they captured the play’s humor better than its pathos...Those who have not seen the play before will probably enjoy this production unless they are uncomfortable with nudity and rough language."
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June 5th, 2019

"They are both equally brilliant in these departures from their familiar parts. McNally’s skillful script deceptively seems to only depict a one-night stand between the title loners in Frankie’s cramped apartment...Arbus perfectly balances the play’s comic and dramatic elements while Shannon juggles Johnny’s intensity and sweetness...Their bittersweet, push-pull dance of acceptance, resistance, pain, ecstasy, and meatloaf sandwiches is heartbreaking, joyous, and irresistible."
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June 1st, 2019

“Even though six-time Tony winner McDonald is unsurprisingly winning as the love-averse waitress Frankie...Its MVP is Shannon who brings his own prodigious charm to the role...The play is somewhat dated and it’s a stretch of the imagination to think of McDonald or Shannon as sad-sack losers. Plus the play goes on far too long...But with big-hearted support from McDonald, Shannon makes you fall in love with him and with the possibility that love truly can heal all wounds.”
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June 16th, 2019

"A play that is likely to leave you squirming in your seat due to the icky substance of that romance...Both actors are brilliant, and give gorgeously rich performances. That’s why it’s all the more confounding that they never convincingly emit sparks of romance...While enjoyable—despite the squirms—this serviceable revival by director Arin Arbus never quite justifies its existence."
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May 30th, 2019

“This is one delicious piece of theater...This beautifully written play has an odd set of concordances with ‘Burn This’...The production is anchored in two of the best performances currently on Broadway. McDonald and Shannon are a chemistry experiment made explosive, and made right. They are a delight to watch, to cringe for, and to respond to...These are two exceptional performances in total concert.”
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May 31st, 2019

“Though Arbus finesses some of the play’s more cringeworthy turns, 30 years of evolution in gender politics haven’t exactly been kind to it...Both performers forge flesh-and-blood, convincingly ordinary characters, capturing their weary, troubled psyches and their glimmer of hope at meeting a kindred spirit. Together they turn their unlikely chemistry into something electric, and in doing so reanimate material that may otherwise have felt near its expiration date.”
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C
June 6th, 2019

“McDonald and Shannon directed by Arbus spike Terrence McNally’s 1980s New York City ‘romance for the ages’ with organic authenticity and powerhouse performances. Both actors cleverly negotiate the difficulties of comedy by not playing for humor...In not pushing for laughs...the actors come up with the most unexpected and surprising riffs...They are precisely shepherded with adroit skill by Arbus to release their profound and moving sensibilities.”
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June 14th, 2019

"Shannon is ideal casting for the role; he has the aura of someone whose failure to deviate from any kind of normality is profoundly weird...McDonald, too, is spectacular, making choices that minimize her physical presence; she is always tucking into herself, as if with enough effort she could eventually disappear from view."
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June 3rd, 2019

"Shannon is appropriately invasive and insistent and Audra is skeptical yet obviously intrigued by someone who proposes marriage and kids on a first date. Classical music wafts as a backdrop throughout, and the closing moments—as directed by Arin Arbus—neatly balance the lyrical and the mundane, with Johnny’s high-flying ideas grounded by a couple of toothbrushes in motion. It’s good stuff, but you should mainly see this for the excellent star duo of Audra and Michael."
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May 30th, 2019

“Beautifully performed revival...The play requires significant willingness to go with the vision of...Arbus, especially when it comes to accepting the striking McDonald as an unattractive high school dropout...But the six-time Tony Award winner pulls it off with an intense, finely nuanced performance, her every move calculated to portray her conflicted feelings...Shannon is better suited physically to the Shakespeare-quoting ex-con, offering up an intriguing mix of bravado and brashness."
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June 5th, 2019

“What makes the piece exciting is the casting. Shannon is a revelation here...His seductive manner is overpowering...He brings humanity in the purest form to Johnny...What works against McDonald are the hideous costumes she has to wear, for they strip her of any femininity and vulnerability...Perhaps the show should have waited for the smaller venue, where the fireworks of these two talented and overwhelming leads would have ricocheted off the walls.”
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W
May 31st, 2019

"What happens when you combine a three decade old two hander by one of our greatest living playwrights with two of our finest stage actors? Magic at the Broadhurst Theatre, that's what…Audra McDonald lights up every stage she appears on and brings an emotional depth and resilience to the role. Michael Shannon is exceptional and carries the evening with his insistence that he will not take no for an answer but he will achieve that through persuasion and not force."
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U
June 10th, 2019

"McDonald and Shannon shine in their roles as everymen finding communality in the night. Director Arin Arbus‘s first-rate revival of McNally’s play delivers a night of the theater that’s anything but ordinary.”
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May 29th, 2019

"Director Arin Arbus, working with intimacy and fight director Claire Warden, thoughtfully reconsiders what this seemingly mismatched, middle-aged 1980s couple has to teach us in the #MeToo era...McDonald proves again why she is perhaps her generation’s finest actress...McNally’s hopeful and heartfelt dramedy still carries a message for audiences who have grown perhaps even more jaded about love than those of three decades ago."
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