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3C

Davd Adjmi's curious mix of light froth and dark drama grows tiresome despite the game efforts of a fine cast.

By New York City
Jake Silbermann, Anna Chlumsky, and
Hannah Cabell in 3C
(© Joan Marcus)
Jake Silbermann, Anna Chlumsky, and
Hannah Cabell in 3C
(© Joan Marcus)
David Adjami's 3C, playing at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, which has produced the play with piece by piece productions and Rising Phoenix Repertory, certainly starts with a promising premise. This new comedy imagines a Chekhovian overlay of emotional turmoil and undercurrent of fraught, unspoken subtext for a group of characters who are not unlike those found in the 1970s staple, Three's Company.

It's a juxtaposition that, theoretically, should be the stuff of high merriment. But, while there are a few chuckles to be had in this show, directed with feverish intensity by Jackson Gay, the result is more tiresome than inspired.

Anyone who's seen even only one or two episodes of the television show will appreciate John McDermott's scenic design as soon as they enter the theater. The unit set of a stuccoed apartment with its mélange of doors, so necessary in farce, marvelously pays homage to the series that's inspired Adjmi's play.

And when theatergoers meet the ditzy blonde Connie (Anna Chlumsky) and her ultra-serious roommate Linda (Hannah Cabell) as they clean up from a party they've thrown, there's a certain, albeit skewed, déjà vu factor to the piece, particularly as Linda delivers lines like "The line between life and death isn't so clearcut for a flower" in between jokes.

By the time a full-frontal Brad (Jake Silbermann), who's been passed out in the kitchen following the women's party, bursts through the swinging kitchen door, theatergoers have come to fully grasp Adjmi's dual conceit for the play. And once he's introduced the owners of the building, the leering Mr. Wicker (Bill Buell), his almost psychotic anxiety-ridden wife (Kate Buddeke), as well as Brad's best pal, polyester-clad ladies man Terry (Eddie Cahill), theatergoers will find familiar details and stories unspooling with decidedly dark -- even venomous -- intensity.

For instance, all of Mr. Wicker's jokes about Brad -- who becomes Connie and Linda's roommate -- being gay have a viciousness that's genuinely discomfiting. Similarly, a sexually tense moment that Wicker and Linda share induces winces as it borders on the predatory. More successful is the overly homoerotic tone that courses through Brad and Terry's relationship and Linda's bitter jealousy over Connie's beauty and success with guys.

Throughout, the talented ensemble gamely works to deliver Adjmi's curious combination of light froth and dark drama, and their commitment to the play's difficult dualities consistently impresses. Silbermann, a gifted physical comedian, brings a certain sweetness to his turn as the befuddled Brad, which gives undeniable weight to the play's shrill conclusion, and Chlumsky plays Connie with a distracted vacuity that can't help but induce smiles.

As Mr. Wicker, Buell delivers each cutting barb with leers and exaggerated grimaces that can't help but bring to mind the facial tics of funnyman Don Knotts, and Cahill imbues Terry with a hip-swiveling oiliness that perfectly befits an inveterate singles bar habitué.

Cabell and Buddeke, playing the show's most angst-ridden characters, prove adept at veering between glibness and bitterness, as required, but their efforts are not enough to make this potentially comic and cutting mashup convincing.


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