Jake Silbermann, Anna Chlumsky, and Hannah Cabell starred in 3C, David Adjmi's riff on the classic television sitcom Three's Company, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in 2012.
Jake Silbermann, Anna Chlumsky, and Hannah Cabell starred in 3C, David Adjmi's riff on the classic television sitcom Three's Company, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in 2012.
(© Joan Marcus)

Playwright David Adjmi went to court on Thursday, January 30, to defend the integrity of his dark comedy 3C, which had been accused of copyright infringement following its 2012 run at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.

DLT Entertainment, the rights holders of the classic television sitcom Three's Company, alleged then that Adjmi's play overlapped too closely with the program and might confuse audience members who believe that it's a full adaptation. Adjmi and his lawyers contend that 3C is an original parody that uses tropes from the sitcom to examine the sexism and homophobia of the 1970s.

Adjmi went to the Southern District Court of New York armed with the support of fellow theater artists including Stephen Sondheim, Tony Kushner, John Patrick Shanley, Joe Mantello, John Guare, and representatives from Lincoln Center Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Like Three's Company, 3C tells the story of a single man living with two single women and posing as openly gay to appease their apartment building's landlord. Unlike the sitcom's male character, however, 3C's happens to be a closeted homosexual.

After lawyers for the sitcom sent a cease and desist letter alleging that Adjmi was using at least 17 elements from the sitcom, the playwright agreed not to proceed with further productions of the piece. In the ensuing years, he has since been offered the opportunity to have the play published, but only if the legal threat from Three's Company is withdrawn.

Whether the courts will rule in favor of Adjmi or DLT Entertainment remains to be seen.