Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Oct. 16-19 and Oct. 23-25, 8 p.m., at the Kay Meek Centre Studio Theatre, 1700 Mathers Ave., West Vancouver. Tickets: $25/$42/$50, available online at kaymeekcentre. com or by calling the box office at 604-981-6335. For mature audiences.
Kay Meek Centre's in-house production company, TheatreK, kicks off its 2013/14 season by inviting audiences inside the bedroom of two lonely middle-aged New Yorkers.
Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune by playwright Terrence McNally will be staged in the centre's intimate 148-seat studio theatre. The two-character show tells the very un-Hollywood love story of Frankie (played by Caroline Cave), a waitress at a greasy-spoon diner, and Johnny (played by Frank Cassini), a shortorder cook. As the curtain rises, the pair is discovered in bed after having just met several weeks ago on the job. Frankie, figuring this encounter is no more than a one-night stand, is hopeful Johnny will get dressed and leave. But Johnny, the more romantic of the two, is convinced he's in love.
"The audience sort of blends into the set, like, they're right on top of us and our job is to take them on this ride in a way that they can keep up with the characters' twists and turns," explains Cave, a West Vancouver resident.
The Gemini-Awardwinning actress has dozens of stage, film and TV credits under her belt, but admits Frankie is one of the most challenging roles she's ever played.
"The actor has to really expose herself in every way in order to play what's asked of by the playwright," Cave says, explaining she bares herself both physically and emotionally for the part. "The playwright begs of the actors that they go certain places that are not easy to go."
Originally from a bluecollar Pennsylvania town, Frankie lives in a walk-up apartment in the Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood of Manhattan. It's the late '80s and the onceaspiring actress has had more than her share of disappointments - romantic and otherwise - leaving her fragile and self-protective.
"She's extremely complex, she's funny, but she's not educated, so there's an insecurity around her intellect which I find an interesting challenge," Cave says.
The entire play takes place inside her apartment and, through poignant dialogue, passionate outbursts and bittersweet humour, explores themes of love, fate, luck and
"The play for me is a lot about being brave of heart," Cave says, recalling a time, four years ago, when she made an emotional leap of faith in her own life.
She went on a first date with her would-be husband in the summer of 2009. But this was not actually their first encounter. Both had attended West Vancouver secondary school years earlier, but he graduated ahead of her and the future spouses were simply "ships passing," Cave says.
"I knew his younger brother but I didn't really know him, and then we were set up on a somewhat blind date by our mothers."
Six months later they were married and are now settled in West Vancouver with two children, aged one and three.
"It's about taking a risk," she says.
Frankie and Johnny marks Cave's return to a Vancouver stage since moving home from Toronto in 2010. This production may not be suitable for younger audiences, she warns, but explains the instances of nudity, sexuality and coarse language are all necessary to maintain the raw honesty of the story.
"That's what it is and if you don't embrace it then you're betraying the play, but I also think it can be handled in a way that's true."
Kay Meek's managing and artistic director Claude Giroux, who is also directing Frankie and Johnny, says Cave was the perfect choice for this role.
"It's just such a strong female part," he says. "It's such a balancing act between fear and passion and I just thought that it was a role that Caroline was ready to play and a role that was very appropriate for sOmeone of her particular skills."
One challenge he faces as director is identifying the subtle nuances in McNally's script. Without these emotional "hills and valleys" the play could easily turn into a screaming match or a "dark, ooey gooey mess," Giroux says.
"There is a lot of humour and pathos in this play and making sure to find those moments that make these people want to stay and want to figure this out is really important to making it all make sense," he says. "The play is really about two people struggling to connect in a meaningful way when, to some degree, the odds are against them."
Looking ahead, Giroux says TheatreK's second season, which includes productions of Driving Miss Daisy and Norm Foster's On a First Name Basis, will appeal to a wide audience.
"There's a nice balance between musicals, dramatic productions and some comedy that I feel provides a great opportunity for folks to get a little bit of everything theatrically."
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