Although I was just a country lad at the height of the ’70s, the era exists in received cultural memory as a Neverland of disco tunes, bell-bottoms, porn ’staches and a general air of cheerful, post-hippie licentiousness. Elements not as likely to intrude on this groovy, pseudo-nostalgic mythos are Vietnam vets, homophobic backlash and a hungover, fucked-out generation staring into the maw of the ’80s. Playwright David Adjmi has kindly filled in the blanks with his bitterly funny and inventive 3C, which appropriates the sitcom structure of iconic Three’s Company and pumps it full of sexual panic and existential horror. Don’t worry; there are also plenty of convulsive, wacky laughs—more, in fact, than you’d find over in TV Land.
John McDermott’s set hearkens back to the Santa Monica funky-singleton apartment we know from reruns: stucco walls, granny couch, the swinging pantry door just begging for pratfalls. It’s the home of plucky Linda (Hannah Cabell) and slutty Connie (Anna Chlumsky), gal pals with a rent shortage. Enter from the kitchen fully naked Brad (Jake Silbermann), a discharged solider and potential roommate, who passed out during last night’s party. In order to convince lechy landlord Mr. Wicker (Bill Buell) to let Brad room with them, the girls lie about him being gay. Only, he really is. Cue super-creepy series of “faggot” jokes from a leering Wicker.
Adjmi’s script, quick-cutting from dopey to deranged in seconds, is intensely funny and unnerving in equal measure. The outstanding cast transcends parody under Jackson Gay’s shrewd direction, achieving moments of shocking pain and heartbreak. I don’t actually believe the ’70s were like the hysterical, perverse dystopia we see in 3C, but then again, you can’t trust what you see on the tube.—David Cote
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