photo: Scott Suchman
Arena Stage's production of Terrence McNally's frank and intimate romantic drama has a terrific Johnny in Vito D'Ambrosio. As the short order cook who doggedly pursues Frankie, an emotionally scarred waitress, over the course of a night of lovemaking and soul-baring, he's endearingly like an overgrown child. He plays it as if the connection Johnny feels with Frankie reawakens something deeply innocent in him; when Johnny isn't scaring the shit out of damaged her by narrowing his eyes to insist that they belong together, he can scarcely keep a smile off his face. It's a lovely performance. What this production doesn't yet have in Kate Buddeke is a Frankie strong enough to match him. Her characterization work is spot-on - you can feel the years of disappointment and diminished expectations in her body language - but she hasn't yet found all the levels in the text and the performance is too much the same from start to finish. Give her a little time and I expect this will become every bit the dynamic two-hander it can be.