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.

By - Apr 29th, 2013 05:27 pm
Jeff Daniels' Apartment 3A runs through May 19 at the Tenth Street Theatre

Jeff Daniels’ Apartment 3A runs through May 19 at the Tenth Street Theatre

Part of the draw of  In Tandem Theatre’s Apartment 3A is its big-name author, Jeff Daniels, star of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom on HBO.

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.

At times, the dialogue teeters between the brilliance and cliché. Among the eye-rollers: Annie: Why do I only date men who treat me like shit? Donald: You have to promise not to fall in love with me.  And when Annie finally agrees to go to lunch with Elliot, I was ready to settle in for a long argument on the question of God’s existence. Instead, the script and the actors delivered the conversation with comic wit that made the topic new.

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.

Apartment 3A runs Wednesdays through Sundays through May 19 at Tenth Street Theatre. Purchase tickets ($22-$26) online or call (414) 271-1371.

Categories: Theater

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