Would that Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune was a one-act, so I could give the CoHo's production of Terrence McNally's script the glowing review that every other aspect of the show deserves.
The entirety of the play is set in the apartment of a waitress named Frankie. She's just had a date with a cook, Johnny, who has decided that he's in love with her and wants to marry her. After their first date.
The show opens on a dark stage, with what sounds like some pretty spectacular sex. When the lights come up, Frankie and Johnny are in bed, naked, both giddy and pleased at a successful first-date lay. It soon becomes apparent, though, that while Frankie wants Johnny to leave so she can eat some ice cream, watch some TV, and get to sleep, he has no intention of doing so. The enthusiastic Johnny has determined that he and Frankie are meant to be together—all he has to do is convince her of that fact.
The casting here simply could not be better. As Frankie, Valerie Stevens is a study in contractions: insecure and assertive, vulnerable yet fiercely protective of her own space, comfortable with her naked body until Johnny wants to look at it a little too closely. It's easy to imagine her waiting tables in a diner, a little brusque, but tired and kind, deflecting overtures from customers who hit on her just like she's now trying to brush off Johnny.
Victor Mack has the real challenge here, which is to render Johnny as something other than a presumptuous and needy creep, and he lends a trustworthy sincerity to a character who, in other hands, would have had me reaching for my rape whistle.
The first act could easily stand alone as a study in romance versus pragmatism, as the two go back and forth, alternately angry and tender, finally falling into bed. The second act covers little new ground, and the relentless back and forth becomes claustrophobic. It's the fault of no one but playwright McNally, though, that this love story takes too long to reach its inevitable consummation.