In Tandem’s “Apartment 3A” delivers constant, sharp humor
In Tandem Theatre closes its season with Jeff Daniels' "Apartment 3A" and its witty answers to life's big, pesky questions.
Much of Apartment 3A favors Sorkinese, as characters trade zingers at a furious rate. As Annie (Tiffany Vance) interacts with her new landlord, Dahl (Gene Schuldt), in the opening scene, we hear that unshakable tone of a fiercely independent, down on her luck, hiding-her-pain woman. Dahl cracks some jokes about cable television and we learn that Annie works for the local public television station, confirming her liberal persona.
Director Jane Flieller shows a pitch-perfect ear for the dramedy of Apartment 3A. In Tandem’s cast delivers witty and natural performances. They moved neatly through the play’s crafty transitions. For example, Annie ends a conversation with her eager and friendly neighbor Donald (Simon Jon Provan) in her apartment and seamlessly enters her work environment with just a fade of light.
At work, we meet Elliot (Doug Jarecki), who’s clearly enamored with fiery Annie. Throughout Apartment 3A, Annie struggles to understand her (non?) feelings for Elliot — as she confides more and more in her happily married neighbor, Donald.
Apartment 3A carries a lot of political commentary in its PBS story line. But it also shows Annie derail during an on-air pledge drive, screaming that Big Bird will die if kids don’t make their parents pick up the phone (thus ironically mirroring the “Kill Big Bird” controversy from the 2012 election). Annie brings out her big-super-liberal guns during the aforementioned conversation on the existence of a deity. Through the wrong lens, or with the wrong performers, Daniels’ writing could become overwrought. Instead, Vance, Provan, and especially Jarecki continuously come together with perfect chemistry.
If I seem to be skirting around the love-triangle plot of this play, I do so because of all the spoiler land mines on the path to the surprise ending. Know that it raises interesting questions about the possibility — or impossibility — of platonic relationships, about the self-deprecating mind of a broken woman, and about the merit of allowing someone in.