Frankie & Johnny is Terrence McNally's frank look at unglamorous people who don't know each other well, and who try to sort out their feelings during an apparent one-night stand. The DTC staging directed by artistic director Fontaine Syer features the married acting couple Susan Riley Stevens and Greg Wood in the roles of the intimate strangers.
How do married performers approach the roles?
"There are advantages and disadvantages of being married when playing Frankie and Johnny," Wood told Playbill On Line. "It's a little harder to 'not know' one another, but at the same time, we're asked to be very intimate with each other, and obviously our relationship helps that. But also, there's a lot of Frankie and Johnny in us, and at times, showing 'ourselves' in intimate situations in front of an audience is difficult. For example, the beginning of the play asks us to reach orgasm [in the famous, dimly-lit opening scene]. Is it Susie and Greg? Or is it Frankie and Johnny?"
Stevens told Playbill On-Line, "I find it incredibly comforting that the other person onstage with me is my husband. It's actually much easier to stay in the moment when I'm looking at such a familiar face; I know I can trust him completely, and my comfort level just goes way up. There's something kind of exhilarating about really knowing someone, and then getting to know them for the first time every night onstage and realizing as we're driving home that I've fallen in love with him all over again. Mushy, but true."
Stevens said it's easier to be naked on stage with her husband up there with her, but they nevertheless feel exposed in front of the audience — how could they not? "There is this total exposure that we feel as actors, and actually, I think it's what the characters are going through as well," she said. "There is a reason they start the play completely naked, completely exposed."
Stevens and Wood, Philadelphia-based actors, play a short-order cook (Johnny) and a bruised waitress (Frankie), respectively. Performances play DTC Sept. 17 Oct. 5. The 2002-03 Broadway season saw the Broadway debut of the hit Off-Broadway play.
Susan Riley Stevens appeared at Asolo Theatre in Florida in The Corn is Green, The Philadelphia Story, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I Hate Hamlet, The Voysey Inheritance and Sockdology. She played Kari in The Pavilion at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Other regional credits include A Delicate Balance, People's Light and Theatre Company; Closer and Three Days of Rain at the Arden Theatre Company; All's Well That Ends Well, Dallas Theatre Center; The Beaux Stratagem, Yale Rep; Nora, Portland Stage Company; Titus Andronicus, Twelfth Night, Hudson Valley Shakespeare; and Much Ado About Nothing, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival.
Greg Wood won the 1997 Barrymore Award for Best Supporting Actor in a play for his portrayal of Biff Loman in the Arden Theatre's Death of a Salesman. Wood's other Arden credits include The Grapes of Wrath, Hedda Gabler (1998 Barrymore Award nomination), Falsettos, Sunday in the Park with George, Man and Superman and The Brothers K. His film appearances include "The Sixth Sense" with Bruce Willis.
The upcoming Delaware Theatre Company season, the troupe's 25th, also includes Steven's Dietz's adaptation, Dracula; Two Pianos, Four Hands,the coming-of-age play with music about two men looking back at their piano lessons; director-playwright Tazewell Thompson's play-with-music Constant Star, about anti-lynching heroine Ida B. Wells; Joan Holden's Nickel & Dimed, tales from the world of those earning a minimum wage in America (based on the book by Barbara Ehrenreich and co-produced with Philadelphia Theatre Company); and Lanford Wilson's two-hander, Talley's Folly.
For information about Delaware Theatre Company visit www.delawaretheatre.com, or call (302) 594-1104.