THE vigorous copulation that begins Frankie and Johnny In the Clair de Lune might be deemed rather shocking for audiences.

Though the couple are in semi-darkness and shielded by bedcovers, their moans and grunts leave no room for doubt about what is occurring.

But while your critic found this, and some of the sexual allusions that follow in the play, a little off-puttingly frank, the people of Chipping Norton seem made of sterner stuff.

Around me in the stalls a crowd scarcely my junior in years seemed unfazed by antics on stage, laughing when appropriate (which is quite often) with nary a gasp or cluck of disapproval.

Terrence McNally’s two-hander is a quintessential piece of American theatre, as slickly scripted as a TV sitcom - if rather more realistic in content - and no less gripping. A hit in New York in 1987 with Kathy Bates and F. Murray Abraham, the play is well known in a film version starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino.

The latter, not surprisingly, broadens the action to take in a wider city perspective. In the play, we are confined to the seedy Manhattan apartment of Frankie (Caroline Lawton) whither she has invited Johnny (Marcus D’Amico), with the aforementioned copulation possibly contemplated, at the end of their first date.

Both are of middle years and not especially (with apologies to the actors) physically alluring. Gradually we piece together other details about them. They are, it seems, workmates, he a short order chef and she a waitress at the same down-market diner. Frankie has failed to make the grade on stage; Johnny loves his Shakespeare, with plenty of time to savour it during a spell inside.

Life has damaged them in different ways, but it is Johnny’s contention that pain can be alleviated through what is for him, now, their new big affair. Whether he will convince Frankie of this supplies much of the meat of the drama.

Real, funny, touching - the dialogue is beautifully written, and flawlessly delivered in bravura performanes by Lawton and D’Amico under John Terry’s expert direction. The only fault, not unusual where American plays are concerned, is that the characters seem more eloquent than their background would suggest they really would be.

This is Chippy’s first home-produced stage show, pantomimes apart, for five years. It was worth waiting for.

Until Saturday September 29. Tickets: 01608 642350.