MILWAUKEE - When someone
breaks your heart, it is hard to take the risk again.
This is the way the play
“Apartment 3A” by Jeff Daniels
opens, with Annie entering a barren apartment in a rather scruffy neighborhood
to start her tattered little life over again. Annie works for PBS and is a
passionate advocate for all progressive causes: world peace, cleaner air, gay
rights, gun control and good educational children’s programs. Her cohort,
Elliot, works with her at the station and is often trying to bridle her
exuberance and spontaneity. He is also secretly in love with Annie but inept in
declaring his attraction.
Enter a neighbor who lives
across the hall - Donald, who provides comfort and advice and a free dozen eggs.
Donald is a good guy, but we sometimes doubt his motives. He claims to be
married to an idyllic, beautiful woman whom he adores. Unfortunately, she
travels a lot.
So now we have two men who
are being attentive to the befallen Annie: Elliot, a sincere but awkward nerd
with a keen interest in the mating habits of polar bears, and Donald, a hopeless
romantic who loves to waltz and catch liars in the act. Annie resists their
friendship even as we can sense her ambivalence and vulnerability and the
possibility that she might be capable of opening her heart again.
During a dinner with Elliot,
the question of religion arises when he suddenly confesses that he is Catholic
and she admits that she is an atheist. At this point, Annie’s intensity
reaches a new pitch as they each present their alternate points of view
regarding the existence of God and his presence or absence in the world. From
this point on, we await proof to substantiate either or both positions.
Meanwhile, Donald frequently
appears in a sort of observatory and advisory role, and we begin to wonder about
him. We like his honesty, and even though he is irksome to Annie, we sense that
she likes him, too. But then there’s Elliot. Both men are almost too nice and
not the type of men that Annie has usually fallen for.
Tiffany Vance totally
captivates us from the moment she enters apartment 3A and collapses into tears
as soon as the landlord closes the door. Within a few moments, we meet her
mysterious neighbor Donald who barges in to console her, and several moments
later we are watching her on the air, fundraising for PBS and threatening the
audience with the death of Big Bird if they don’t send money. Enter Elliot,
her fellow worker, cautioning Annie that she has overstepped her boundaries, yet
admiring her guts.
In the first 10 minutes, we
meet all four characters and get a good sense of each of them with a few deft
strokes of the playwright. An amazing script from start to finish.
Doug Jarecki (Elliot)
delivers as usual. His earnest demeanor along with his keen comic sense are an
irresistible combination. Simon Jon Provan (Donald) creates an air of mystery
from the moment he intrudes himself upon the scene. He maintains this
fascinating mien throughout. We keep thinking, what is with this guy? Gene
Schuldt makes a cameo but key appearance as the landlord.
As usual, In Tandem delivers
another class production. “Apartment 3A” was on their docket in 2002. I
loved it then but had forgotten why. Now I remember. Quality script, great
acting and good direction by Jane Flieller. Don’t miss this one.
“Apartment 3A” runs
through May 19 at In Tandem Theatre, 628 N. 10th St., Milwaukee. Call
414-271-1371 for show times and tickets.