nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
June 20, 2012
Six superb performances are the highlight of David Adjmi’s 3C, an absurdist farce that turns the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company—and the sitcom proper—on its ear as he attempts to explore the program’s homophobia and the deep, hidden loneliness beneath the facades of Jack Tripper, the Ropers, Chrissy Snow, and Janet Wood. It’s certainly a lofty goal I believe he has for the dark comedy, presented as a co-production of piece by piece productions, Rising Phoenix Repertory, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. But for all its moments of promise, 3C, which is directed by Jackson Gay, doesn’t actually seem like it has anything to say, bogged down with unfunny dialogue and too much shtick, with not enough of the existential longing that he hints at throughout.
There’s no hiding the fact that Adjmi is deconstructing Three’s Company, starting with John McDermott’s set, a dead-ringer for the light and airy, door-heavy Santa Monica apartment shared by Chrissy, Janet, and Jack. The work even follows the basic storyline of the pilot: Connie (Anna Chlumsky), the ditsy, buxom blonde, and Linda (Hannah Cabell), an uptight florist, are roommates who, after a night of drunken partying, discover cooking student Brand (Jake Silbermann) passed out in their kitchen (he actually discovers them as he enters the living room, completely naked, to their horror). Quickly, they start living together, with Brad posing as gay so as not to provoke the ire of the cranky landlord couple, the Wickers (Bill Buell and Kate Buddeke). Adjmi also adds Brad’s womanizing best friend Terry (Eddie Cahill) into the mix (the Richard Kline role on the sitcom).
Occasionally, Adjmi will introduce the darker side of each character: the crippling loneliness of Linda, who’s desperately in love with Brad, whose self-hatred gets in the way of his own happiness; the lunatic nervousness of Mrs. Wicker, and the unceasing, ugly homophobia of Terry and Mr. Wicker. Yet for each of these moments, there are many others that were just unfunny, too long, or banal, including a series of funny-at-first dance sequences choreographed by disco legend Deney Terrio (the original host of the 70’s variety show Dance Fever, and choreographer of Saturday Night Fever). With all of this (and the kitchen sink too), I was never quite certain of Adjmi’s intentions, whether or not he was attempting to skewer Three’s Company, or trying to examine “gay panic” in Hollywood, or just trying to explore homophobia through the lens of quirky sitcoms.
Cabell and Silbermann are impressive in the mix of sweetness and sadness they very delicately bring to their roles. With an enviable body, wavy hair, and a perfectly vacant gaze, Chlumsky nails the endearingly dim, stereotypical 1970s dumb blonde. Cahill is a downright riot as he slinks around the room clad in a bright blue one-piece polyester jumpsuit (costumes are designed by Oana Botez-Ban), while Buddeke doesn’t overplay her nervous wreck Mrs. Wicker. And Buell expertly alienates the audience as Mr. Wicker spews some of the ugliest offensive dialogue I’ve ever heard.
The play reaches a head in an Ionesco-like cacophony that is simply the repetition of the word “faggot.” That word, and variations thereof, is repeated over twenty times in the course of the play’s 90-minutes. What Adjmi is trying to do or say, whether he’s trying to push the button or comment on society—is beyond me.