As the star of Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Audra McDonald is living your very specific fantasy of having Michael Shannon cook for you every night. But she admitted to Vulture at the show’s opening-night party that in her world, his omelet is not all it’s cracked up to be.
“It’s actually sort of like never quite getting an orgasm because he cooks for me but I never get a chance to eat it! We end up getting in a fight, but it’s fun watching him,” she said, nodding to the show’s crackling sexual chemistry between her waitress Frankie and Shannon’s cook Johnny. In an early performance, though, it was the knife that drew blood rather than the lovers’ mounting tensions.
“He’s only cut himself once so far. That was interesting—like, ‘Oh, okay, how are we going to deal with a bloody hand the rest of the show?’ He wrapped himself in a towel and just continued with the show. And then at the end, I found some Band-Aids in the bathroom and I laid them out for him, but he didn’t put them on because he’s too much of a manly man.”
For his part, Shannon said that, while he’s not one to cook in real life, making an omelet isn’t “rocket science. It’s pretty simple when you get down to it.” He added that while “it’s probably fun to talk about, it’s probably the absolute least interesting part of the process.”
Johnny, however, is a chef in the two-hander drama, so Shannon was briefly shown his way around the kitchen for the gig: “We actually had a chef come in and give us a sort of tutorial, a woman named Phoebe Lapine, who’s James Lapine’s daughter,” explained director Arin Arbus. “She taught us how to use a knife and crack an egg like an expert would.” Laughing, Arbus also admitted that it was some time before Shannon got it all down: “It took a few rehearsals. I don’t know if I should say that to you!”
Knife-handling aside, there have been other food-related near-accidents, as when Frankie and Johnny indulge in meat-loaf sandwiches, which McDonald and Shannon eat in real time onstage. Understandably, they can get “really sick of it” over the course of a Broadway run, McDonald said. “It’s a challenge, and there have been nights where there’s been a little bit of choking from time to time, or you swallow a piece and you’re like, Oh, that didn’t get down in time for me to say my line. It’s one of those things you have to negotiate … It forces you in the moment. Between the eating and the nudity, you’re fully in the moment, you have no choice!”
As for where all the meat loaf comes from, McDonald added that it’s cooked up specially for Frankie and Johnny each night to meet her varied dietary restrictions.
“It’s a specialty meat loaf because I don’t eat sugar and I don’t do carbs, so they had to do a very special meat loaf just for me,” she revealed. “Gluten-free bread and all that stuff, so it’s actually very snooty of me!”