This is a play for the ages – specifically two ages, our own and 1606 in England. In both eras, pandemics (the Black Plague; COVID-19) have shut down the theaters, leaving people, including theater people, stuck in their homes. In “Frankie and Will,” playwright Talene Monahan whimsically imagines William Shakespeare (portrayed by Michael Urie, who’s rapidly becoming the go-to pandemic period performer) as trapped in quarantine with his unpaid apprentice Francis (Ryan Spahn, who is conveniently Urie’s partner in real life, and so the Zoom captures both in the same room.)
“So, here I am, secluded with only you for company,” the Elizabethan dramatist whines theatrically as he lounges on the sofa. “The playhouses are all closed. I cannot masquerade at the pub. I am distanced socially from my dearest friends and treasured courtesans. And, of course, there’s the pressure. There’s so much PRESSURE. Francis!”
“Yes! Pressure! During a PLAGUE. To write something truly….unprecedented.”
It’s safe to say that “Frankie and Will,” though fun and funny and just a tad ghoulish, is not especially unprecedented. But it does launch MCC’s new LiveLab series, short original one-act plays that will be streamed free online every Wednesday afternoon.
Besides, as we learn in Monahan’s comedy, King Lear wasn’t unprecedented either.
“Frankie & Will” will remain online to watch until Saturday, May 16.