Chicago Theater Review: 3C (A Red Orchid)

Post image for Chicago Theater Review: 3C (A Red Orchid)

by Lawrence Bommer on April 25, 2017

in Theater-Chicago


Now festering at Chicago’s A Red Orchid Theatre, 3C, David Adjmi’s 90-minute one-act, is perversely perky, as zany as a zombie. With rapid-fire non-sequiturs and six crazy/needy characters spouting stream-of-consciousness nonsense, it purports to subvert 70s’ sitcoms and “jiggle television” in general, skewering their excesses and, above all, denials. Perhaps the 70s sucked—but were they sick?

Behind this fascinatingly surreal parody, well detonated by Shade Murray, lurks a deconstructive urge to confront the dark matter—homophobic panic, existential loneliness, severe self-doubts, sexual harassment accompanied by a laugh track—that these silly series cravenly concealed. Of course, whenever things get tense, they break into robotic disco dancing: 3C is fairly funny when it wants to be, especially when the roomies play the ridiculous “Faces” game of aping emotion.

3C, its title an allusion to Three’s Company (the series it most imitates), is set in a crummy apartment in Santa Monica where the rent is always overdue and a piece of gum will always remain stuck to the rug. It focuses on three roommates, their hopes and dreams measurable in millimeters. Insecure, love-lorn, mousy, brittle, and absurdly concerned with being overweight, Linda (Christina Gorman) works in a flower shop—and defers to her sexy, airhead roommate Connie (Sigrid Sutter, simpering with a “valley girl” deadpan). Subject to volatile outbursts and occasional surfing, Connie, whose highest ambition seems to be a vacation at Love Canal, is a miserable man-trap full of peculiar notions too bizarre to detail.

Then there’s Brad (Nick Mikula), newly arrived in L.A., an alewife out of a Midwestern pond. He’s moving out on his womanizing upstairs roommate Terry (Steve Haggard), wants to be a chef, and, like all the guys, has homosexual issues, as in sporadically acting out coming-out with closeted abandon. In a ridiculous running gag, Brad keeps breaking his nose. (As if to show how deep these guys go, when Brad painfully confesses that he feels “empty,” Terry asks if he’s hungry: What else could it be?; when Terry finds Brad boring, he asks, “Why are you such a dial tone?”)

The other denizens of this bottom-feeding sitcom are equally nutso-quirky: The horny landlord Mr. Wicker (Lawrence Grimm) is an equal-opportunity letch with lavender designs on Brad and regular ones on Connie. Gravel-voiced, semi-suicidal, and full of unquiet desperation, his self-medicating wife Mrs. Wicker (Jennifer Engstrom as a bargain-basement Norma Desmond) is a one-woman dysfunctional headquarters.

It’s always Saturday night in 3C. In this closed world and hilarious hellhole, people break out, make out, and pass out. According to the show’s publicity, “We could use a good laugh, an out-loud, roll-on-the-floor, cringe-worthy, ugly-cry laugh.” Such guffaws come seldom in 3C, but there’s no discounting the exposed pain beneath these daffy California caricatures. Murray keeps the mayhem moving, strategically denying us a pause to ponder the point of spoofing a genre that seemed to send itself up from the start.

photos by Michael Brosilow

A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Ave
Thurs–Sat at 8; Sun at 3
ends on June 4, 2017
for tickets, call 312.943.8722 or visit A Red Orchid

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

Leave a Comment