Chicago Theatre Review
Red Orchid tries too hard with retro ‘3C’
3C – A Red Orchid Theatre
David Adjmi’s ‘3C,’ which is receiving its Chicago premiere at A Red Orchid Theatre, is that most unfortunate of plays – a well-cast, well-acted, well-staged, and ultimately well-directed production that does not quite succeed in its lofty aims.
Set in a crummy apartment building in Santa Monica in the 1970s, ‘3C’ is partially inspired by the classic sitcoms from the era, and indeed, Adjmi and director Shade Murray check off nearly every box in the ’70s sitcom category. We have the two female roommates (Christina Gorman as Linda, and Sigrid Sutter as Connie) who, because one is homely but responsible, the other attractive but dumb as a stump, mix like oil and water. We have the dysfunctional married couple who own the apartment building, which includes a pervy husband (the masterful Lawrence Grimm) and a nuttier-than-a-fruitcake wife (Jennifer Engstrom). And we have the two buddies, aspiring chef/Vietnam vet Brad (the likable Nick Mikula) and Fonz-wannabe Terry (the terrific Steve Haggard).
The action is set entirely in Linda and Connie’s apartment, and what transpires across the ensuing 90 minutes is a comedy of errors with a modern twist. Indeed, there are many things that work well, particularly when the action focuses on the insecurities of Linda and the Brad’s homosexuality, which he not only hides, but is ashamed by. The concept of taking ’70s sitcoms and examining their dark underbelly – which I assume is Adjmi and Murray’s focus – is an inspired one, and there are moments in ‘3C’ where it works quite well.
But those moments are unable to overcome the sheer VOLUME of the play, and I’m not referring solely to the actor’s voices, which are turned up to 11 and are so loud that my ears were ringing by the play’s end. No, I also mean the play’s themes and situations, which never allow the characters any room to breath. Everything is so tightly wound, so clearly constructed, so conscience of the fact that it is a play, that things are never allowed to simply sit and develop. So we get unfortunate scenes like the one between Engstrom’s Mrs. Wicker and Gorman’s Linda, where Mrs. Wicker – off her meds and clearly unstable – screams her way through her dialogue, even turning the temperature of her tea into something to holler about (while the liquid is in her mouth, mind you). It’s just too much.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through June 4 by A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60610
Tickets are available by calling 312-943-8722 or by visiting http://www.aredorchidtheatre.org
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.