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Paulanne Simmons

Apartment 3A

Philip J. Cutrone, Marianna McClellan in "Apartment 3A." Photo by Kat Cheng

"Apartment 3A"
Directed by Owen M. Smith
The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St. between 9th and Dyer avenues
Opened Jan. 26, 2008
Tues. thru Sat 8 p.m., Sat. matinee 2 p.m., Sun. matinee 3 p.m.
$25 (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Closes Feb. 16, 2008
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Jan. 29, 2008

Two years ago I reviewed "Apartment 3A" on this website. At that time the play was staged at ArcLight Theater. I liked it then. Now Jeff Daniels' fine piece of work is at Beckett Theatre, presented by the young and vibrant Clockwork Theatre. And now I love it. Perhaps the play grows on you. Perhaps it is Owen M. Smith's admirable direction. Who knows?

"Apartment 3A" is about Annie Wilson (the excellent Marianna McClellan), a PBS fundraiser who has recently gone through a bloody breakup with her boyfriend and moved into Apartment 3A. The apartment faces a slum and is not very attractive. The owner's wife is a little crazy.

But the apartment has one advantage. Annie's next-door-neighbor is Donald Peterson (Doug Nyman), an affable painter who tells her "my work is on permanent display in my apartment." Nyman very effectively keeps Donald mysterious and ordinary at the same time.

Part of the mystery surrounding Donald is related to his wife, a gorgeous woman who is the subject of the painting he is most proud of. Donald is deeply in love with this woman, a world traveler who is currently in Rome on business. So why, one must ask, is he so interested in Annie?

There is another man in Annie's life. His name is Elliot Brown (the totally lovable Jay Rohloff), an earnest and wholesome co-worker at the television station. He has loved Annie ever since she made a passionate speech standing on top of his desk. And he pursues her cheerfully and doggedly, inspired by a PBS documentary about polar bears, who have "grace and beauty" as well as "compassion for each other."

Annie is at a low point in her life. She has given up on love and lost the ability to form relationships. Donald and Elliot try to bring Annie out of her slump – Donald through his energy and goodwill; Elliot through his love and faith in God.

Olga Mill's set is the apartment, furnished only with a table and chairs. A change of lighting (Joshua Windhausen and Taryn Kennedy are lighting designers), projections on the bare walls, the clever use of a window in a wall of the apartment, and transitional cello music (one of Annie and Donald's neighbors is a cellist) make the scene changes to the televisions station, a restaurant and Elliot's apartment smooth and clear.

The scenes that don't take place in Apartment 3A are mostly flashbacks, dramatized conversations between Annie and Donald. Like the genie let out of the bottle, Donald presides over Annie's life. He teaches Annie to waltz, makes dinner and offers advice; but he cannot grant her wishes. All he can do is offer hope.

In the ArcLight production, the very spiritual message of "Apartment 3A" was diluted by an emphasis on the comedic and bawdy elements in the play. Although this was highly entertaining, it made the ending less explicable and effective.

Clockwork Theatre's production brings out all the spirituality and hopefulness inherent in the play. It makes you smile. But it also makes you feel good.



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