Actors shed their inhibitions and clothes in new theatrical production Blue Bridge

Frankie and Johnny at Clair de Lune until November 7

ON THE SCENE

What: Frankie and Johnny at Moonlight
Where: The Roxy Theater, 2657 Quadra St.
When: Oct. 27 to Nov. 7
Tickets: $25 (live stream) or $37.80 (in person) at 250-382-3370 or bluebridgetheatre.ca

The titular characters of Frankie and Johnny in Clair de Moona 1987 duet by playwright Terence McNally, has been inhabited by an impressive array of stage veterans over the years.

It was handy for actors Kelly Hobson and Jacob Richmond, who star in the upcoming Blue Bridge Repertory Theater production of the Tony Award-winning favourite. Al Pacino, Stanley Tucci, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, F. Murray Abraham and Edie Falco each played one of the main roles on stage or in film, which provided a wealth of media from which local actors could draw context and scope.

It was also a big help in other ways. Knowing that the acting elite signed on for roles that called for nudity at various times, the elephant in the room was much less of a warning sign, Hobson said.

“When I look at people who have played Frankie, the first word that comes to mind is powerful – they are very empowering women. That’s why I took on this role. Because of the nudity, I wanted take the opportunity to stand up, on stage, and not have to apologize for who I am as a 43-year-old woman.

Richmond joked that he would be the least svelte actor ever to play Johnny, a short-lived cook who believes he’s found the love of his life in co-worker Frankie. “As far as my physique goes, you’ll say, ‘Yeah, that guy eats carbs,'” he said with a laugh.

The actors have been rehearsing their roles for several weeks, in preparation for the opening night. The couple decided to “rip the band-aid” and rehearse the nude scenes immediately, Richmond said. Hobson said she had done partially nude theater in the past, but that was decades ago. Performing in scenes without clothes on was a first for Richmond, who said it was a welcome but difficult challenge. “I had fight scenes in [the 2013 Blue Bridge production] True Where iswhere I had to strangle someone for 20 minutes, but it’s much harder.

Frankie and Johnny runs tonight through Nov. 7 at the Roxy Theater, Blue Bridge’s first full-capacity show following the relaxation of provincial pandemic-related health protocols. Richmond has been involved as a director and actor in several productions at the Roxy, either for a limited capacity or for streaming-only audiences, over the past year and a half, so he’s primed for a return to normalcy.

“Everyone did a fantastic job, but it was so depressing. It was purgatory, on some level. It doesn’t translate, you go from one medium to another. Live theater is designed for living, breathing bodies in a room.

Richmond will be sure to have eyes on him and Hobson during Fgrade and Johnny‘s run, which is sort of a “be careful what you wish for” scenario. Audiences are eager to return and sales have been strong – good news indeed. But while the nudity is not gratuitous and sensitively handled by acclaimed director Brian Richmond, its presence is something both actors have in mind.

“For me, it got easier every time [during rehearsal]”, said Hobson. “It’s something that is so important not only for women but also for men in our society. We have this dome above us that we have to look a certain way and be a certain way. This is what real people look like, and I make no apologies for who I am. It’s an amazing opportunity to empower myself and the people watching.

Richmond approaches the role of Johnny with a dedicated eye on McNally’s book. “He uses such beautiful language. We were more afraid to go [off-script], because we’re playing these fast-talking New Yorkers. There’s so much in the vernacular of this short-lived cook and waitress. They have these two-page soliloquies, so after a while I felt relieved that the sex part didn’t have a 20-page monologue.

The play is new territory for the two actors, who have not seen or participated in a previous production. Written in the mid-1980s by McNally, who was gay, during the AIDS crisis, the story proved eerily prescient in 2021. Frankie’s character has commitment issues but also a fear of intimacy, caused by concerns about AIDS. virus. Producing a version of this groundbreaking work at a time when another deadly virus has taken hold shouldn’t go unnoticed, Richmond said.

“Kelly has a monologue about the lack of intimacy due to the virus, which made people afraid to kiss at the time. It rings true right now. People are terrified when someone coughs or touches you same.

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Elizabeth J. Harless