Noted director helms comedy for Aurora’s Riverfront Playhouse

Laughter promises to counter cabin fever

The Riverfront Playhouse announces the cast for “America’s Sexiest Couple,” a comedy by Emmy Award-winning writer Ken Levine.

As a television writer/producer, Levine’s credits include “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “The Simpsons,” “Wings,” “Becker” and many others, a news release stated. He is also a veteran baseball announcer and contributing cartoonist to The New Yorker magazine. With partner David Issacs, Levine wrote all of the “Cheers” Bar Wars episodes, as well as “Point of View,” the Emmy-nominated “M*A*S*H” episode about a stay at the 4077th seen through the eyes of a wounded soldier.

The cast includes Autumn Burns (Little Rock, Arkansas, formerly Fox Valley), Jimmy Knapp (Warrenville) and Jack T. Smith (Bloomingdale). Directing is Craig Gustafson of Lombard, winner of the 2019 BroadwayWorld – Chicago award for Best Direction of a Play (Resident Non-Equity) for “August: Osage County.”

The comedy’s setting is Syracuse, New York, the present. It was 25 years ago that actors Susan White (Burns) and Craig McAllister (Smith) were America’s Sexiest Couple, starring as bickering lovers in the sitcom “Residents,” Craig a laid-back surgeon and Susan an uptight nurse. Susan left the show after five years, presumably due to movie offers and ego. She hasn’t spoken to Craig since then, despite the TV specials and reunions. They are in Syracuse for the funeral of one of their co-stars, and seeing each other for the first time in years. Did Susan really leave for career reasons? Was the spark of sexuality on-set reflected in their real feelings? Let’s find out.

“America’s Sexiest Couple” is emphatically a play for adults only, Gustafson noted. There’s no nudity, but it is R-rated.

Levine, who wrote many episodes of “Cheers,” examines what might have happened if Ted Danson and Shelley Long had long-suppressed feelings for each other. If you are a “Cheers” fan, welcome to a play that wonders about Sam and Diane at 60. It is one of the funniest plays you’ll see this year, Gustafson added.

Performances run at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 20 to Feb. 18, at Riverfront Playhouse, 11-13 S. Water Street Mall, in downtown Aurora, just west of Route 25. Tickets and information are available at or 630-897-9496.