A Red Orchid Theatre’s new production, 3C, reminds me of two things I’d rather forget. The silly sitcom, “Three’s Company,” that aired on ABC for eight years, ending in 1984. And even worse, 1970s fashion and color schemes. Beige, brown, gold, orange. Ugly prints. Bell bottoms. Qiana knits, nylon knits, orlon knits, any-kind-of-unnatural-fiber knits.
David Adjmi’s script is every bit as silly as I remember, but it layers on some R-rated language and behavior. And it benefits by strong ensemble acting and smart directing by Shade Murray.
So to summarize, yes, it’s silly but sometimes in this era of political and social trauma, you need an evening of don’t-give-a-damn theater. So take a few friends, have a drink or two before the show, and I predict you’ll enjoy this fast-moving 90-minute nostalgia trip.
Christina Gorman and Sigrid Sutter play Linda and Connie, the two roommates living in unkempt beige splendor in Santa Monica (they’d rather live in West Hollywood). They need another roommate to help pay the rent, since Beverly got married. After an apparently unruly party, help arrives the next morning. Or rather, help drags himself naked out of the kitchen in the form of Brad (Nick Mikula), who needs a place to stay. He’s been bunking in upstairs with his friend Terry (Steve Haggard), but Terry’s active shall-we-say social life is a problem. So great! The girls have a new roommate. Is he gay? Or do we need to say he’s gay to mollify the landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Wicker? (Lawrence Grimm and Jennifer Engstrom). Does it matter? The Wickers would be happy to just get rent payments.
The cast is solid and their timing never misses. Murray choreographs a lot of activity in AROT’s tiny space, including dancing and playing the Faces game. But seeing Jennifer Engstrom play the possibly bipolar and medication-needy Mrs. Wicker is worth the ticket price. She swoops in wearing a colorful caftan with over-abundant jewelry and orange fright wig. She’s hilarious and just short of over the top. Grimm as Mr. Wicker is quiet but subtly menacing whether he’s making moves on Linda or Brad.
Myron Elliott deserves applause (or blame) for his costume design. Let’s see. The men are tied in the ugliest costume competition. Is it Steve in way-open ugly print shirt and high-waisted brown knit trousers (don’t forget the beige shoes)? Or Brad in a coy two-piece blue patchwork print belted shirt and bell bottoms? Did I really hang out with men who dressed like this?
Sarah JHP Watkins handled the set design, in beige, of course. She includes some authentic touches, such as an owl print, a macramé knit wall hanging and an old gold wall-mounted phone (with a really long cord, remember?).
David Adjmi has won numerous awards for his plays. 3C premiered in New York in 2012 and won several awards that year. He’s also author of Marie Antoinette, staged in 2015 by Steppenwolf to mixed reviews.
Adjmi’s 3C continues through June 4 at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., with performances Thursday-Sunday. You can buy tickets for $30-35 online or by calling 312-943-8722.