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Theater Review: '3C' Off-Broadway

Katie Buenneke |
July 3, 2012 | 5:56 p.m. PDT

Theater Editor

Jake Silbermann, Anna Chlumsky, and Hannah Campbell in "3C." Photo by Joan Marcus.
Jake Silbermann, Anna Chlumsky, and Hannah Campbell in "3C." Photo by Joan Marcus.
"3C." "Three's Company." A pretty logical connection, no? If only there were any indication that "3C," now playing at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater off-Broadway, is a reimagination of that beloved 1970s TV show. Without any knowledge of the show, "3C" is a perplexing experience. But regardless of past exposure to "Three's Company," the play is suffering from a fatal identity crisis.

The play follows the mostly-dour Linda (Hannah Campbell) and her roommate, the mostly-peppy Connie (Anna Chlumsky). Their third roommate in their late-1970s Santa Monica apartment has recently married and moved out. They're having trouble finding another female roommate (the landlords are strict about this sort of thing), since everyone wants to live in West Hollywood. Luckily enough, the solution to their dilemma arrives in the form of the naked man in their kitchen, Brad (Jake Silbermann), a Vietnam veteran and chef. The girls tell Mr. and Mrs. Wicker (Bill Buell and Kate Buddeke) that their new friend is gay, so there's no problem with their new living situation. Also floating in and out of their lives is the womanizing Terry (a scene-stealing Eddie Cahill), their neighbor and Brad's friend.

I can't speak to whether or not the play is a perplexing experience to fans of the show; I'm sure there are great references that went entirely over my head. But "3C" is a show that does not quite work out of context. For those uninitiated to the television show, the play vacillates wildly between quiet realism and frenzied absurdism, with little to no segue between the two. I suspect that playwright David Adjmi did this on purpose, using one type of moment as commentary on the other type, but that's not clear while the play is happening; instead, it seems like the characters (portrayed by a cast of valiant actors) are arbitrarily histrionic.

It is this transiency that holds the play back, as if it is having an identity crisis, and does not quite know what it wants to be. Is it providing Brechtian-esque commentary on the culture of the time? Is it a naturalistic and meandering piece about people in a contrived situation? Is it a sympathetic look at the effects of anxiety attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and rape? Is it a rapid-fire sitcom? It is all of those, and none of those, all at the same time, rendering the play an addling experience.

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