Blue Bridge goes live with intimate production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”

Culture Theatre

UVic prof directs show addresses connection and love through classical music

A shot from “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”. Photo sourced from Blue Bridge's Facebook page.A shot from “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”. Photo sourced from Blue Bridge's Facebook page.
Photo sourced from Blue Bridge Theatre’s Facebook page.

How does one express love for another? In Blue Bridge theatre’s latest production, the main character expresses his love by calling a radio station and requesting one of the most romantic songs in history, Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”The play’s director, Brian Richmond, says the story is a romantic tale that is perfectly suited to our pandemic times. “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” was written during the mid 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis.

“It’s a love story,” Richmond, who also teaches in the theatre department at UVic, said. “They are both restaurant workers […] It’s really a story about two people who are on a first date and, over the course of the evening, come to decide or realize that they want to spend the rest of their lives together.” 

The play was written by celebrated gay American playwright Terrence McNally, whose other work includes: “It’s Only a Play,” “Masterclass,”,” and the stage adaptation of Catch Me If You Can.” 

“An underlying theme of the play […] is living in the time of a plague,” Richmond explained. “It’s a world in which people have developed a fear of contact, both contact on a physical level and contact on a deeper emotional and spiritual level. I think the play is about what it is that inspires us to create contact.”   

The play previously ran both on and off Broadway where it was nominated for two Tony Awards. 

Blue Bridge’s production features Jacob Richmond as Johnny and Kelly Hobson as Frankie. It is designed by Hans Saefkow, Jacqueline Gilchrist, and Rebekah Johnson. 

An integral part of this show is nudity, which requires closeness and vulnerability from performers. In order to keep actors feeling safe and comfortable, Richmond hired Treena Stubel as an intimacy coach.

“This is something that requires enormous courage and sensitivity on the part of the creative team and two actors. It’s a very dangerous and vulnerable thing for most of us to do,” Richmond said. “It has to be choreographed very exactly […] and you need to build that environment of trust.”

The play is relevant to current world circumstances, where the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted people’s lives.

“We were hit with this unexpected threat to our well being and to our way of life,” said Richmond. “It happened in a much more magnified way in the theatre. […] I think it made us truly appreciate in a much deeper way just how much the live aspect matters to us […] that is so vital and central to the art form itself.” 

 In 2020, most theatre companies resorted to cancelling or postponing their seasons due to COVID-19 restrictions. Theatre companies like Blue Bridge have adapted to live streaming shows —“Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” will be available via live stream and in person. 

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s upcoming season of shows also includes “A Christmas Carol,” a one-man show featuring Sanjay Talwar. The piece was live streamed last year but they hope to have an in-person audience this season. Other upcoming shows areI Claudia,” “Hedda Gabler,” “They Won’t Pay, We Won’t Pay,” and
“Ride the Cyclone.” 

Speaking about his directing approach, Richmond mentioned that he tries to find the most truthful way to tell a story. 

“We’re storytellers who want to engage in a story that we find of interest. We hope that audiences will find that same level of interest.” 

“Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” will run October 26th to November 7th. Tickets begin at $25 and are available here. The show is recommended for ages 16 and up.