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Gerald Carpenter: Ensemble Theatre Closing Its Season with ‘Frankie and Johnny’

Dee Ann Newkirk stars as Frankie and Rick Gifford as Johnny in the Ensemble Theatre production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. (David Bazemore photo)
Dee Ann Newkirk stars as Frankie and Rick Gifford as Johnny in the Ensemble Theatre production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. (David Bazemore photo)

The Ensemble Theatre Company will close its 2012-13 season with a new production of Terrence McNally’s romantic comedy Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, directed by Saundra McClain and starring Dee Ann Newkirk (Frankie) and Rick Gifford (Johnny).

This is the fourth McNally play to be staged by the Ensemble. The others were A Perfect Ganesh (1995), Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1996) and Master Class (1996). This will also, alas, be the final production in the marvelously intimate Alhecama Theatre, the Ensemble’s home since its founding in 1979.

The company now is in the final stages of the renovation of its new venue, the New Vic, a 300-seat performing arts venue that will serve as its new home.

Evoking the images of Edward Hopper for visual reference, the Ensemble describes the play as follows: “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.’”

Director McClain, who previously served at the helm of the Ensemble’s productions of In the Continuum and The Fantasticks, says, “Frankie and Johnny are two complex characters in a fractured fairy tale. 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.”

Frankie and Johnny will play at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays, June 6-23.

Ticket prices range from $40 to $60, with youth tickets available for those age 26 or younger for $20. Single tickets are available through the Ensemble Theatre box office at 805.965.5400 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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