13_etc_show_05-02Now Playing:

by Terrence McNally
June 6–23, 2013

Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara and Jonathan Fox, Executive Artistic Director, closes its 2012-13 Season with the hit Broadway comic-drama Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. This bittersweet romantic comedy by award-winning playwright Terrence McNally is slated to be Ensemble’s final production at the historic Alhecama Theatre. The play is both sexy and funny, evoking the magic of moonlight in an Edward Hopper world. The New York Times calls Frankie and Johnny a “first-rate comic drama.”

The year is 1987. In a disheveled walk-up apartment in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen (before the neighborhood became fashionable “Clinton”), two lonely, adrift people spend the night together. As they yearn for a deep, romantic connection, they must first contend with the emotional baggage of their past. Frankie is a once-burned, somewhat cynical waitress. Johnny is a short-order cook and headstrong romantic who hopes to take this encounter beyond a “one night stand.” As Johnny remarks to Frankie, “People are given one moment to connect. Not two, not three, one! They don’t take it, it’s gone forever.”

“Frankie and Johnny are two complex characters in a fractured fairy tale,” says director Saundra McClain. “It’s a naturalistic romantic drama infused with humorous interplay and filled with gorgeous music. In fact, the music works as a third character in the play.”

“I’m thrilled to have Saundra McClain back at Ensemble,” said Jonathan Fox, executive artistic director. Ms. McClain directed Ensemble’s productions of In The Continuum and The Fantasticks. She is an accomplished actor, writer and director whose work has received critical praise and numerous awards. She has acted on and off Broadway, in films and on television. She is the recipient of an NEA Grant for her musical, Storm Warning.

Frankie and Johnny is one of Terrence McNally’s most popular plays. He has won four Tony Awards for his plays Master Class and Love! Valour! Compassion!, and for his books for the musicals Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman. His other plays include Corpus Christi; A Perfect Ganesh; Lips Together, Teeth Apart; The Lisbon Traviata and It’s Only a Play. This is Ensemble Theatre’s fourth production of a McNally play, having previously produced A Perfect Ganesh (1995), Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1996) and Master Class (1996).

Dee Ann Newkirk will be playing Frankie. She appeared last season in Ensemble’s production of Creditors, under the direction of Jonathan Fox. She has worked at Denver Center Theater, Colonial Theatre, The Colony Theatre and the New American Theatre. In New York, she performed in The Crucible at Circle in the Square and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Rick Gifford makes his Ensemble debut in the role of Johnny. He has worked extensively on the East Coast both off-Broadway and in regional theatre before moving to the Los Angeles area. His numerous television credits include “The Sopranos,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Suburgatory,” “Prime Suspect,” “Person of Interest,” “The Big Bang Theory” and several sketches on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Mr. Gifford received his MFA in Acting from Columbia University.

Containing brief but tasteful nudity

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