This review of Antony Raymond's Apartment 301 at Access Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Written & Directed by Antony Raymond
New York, New York 10013
Elsinore County Theatre, the production company behind this play, advertised this run as "the world premiere of this comedy about a woman whose life is about to be radically altered." The show's publicist promoted it as a "New Comedy." As a result, I went to see Apartment 301 with the expectation of having a few laughs. However, as a comedy, it missed the mark on many levels. From the stilted script that lacked any depth to the dark lighting in the theater, a lot of pieces of the production negatively influenced the ability of the play to be funny. Most of the "jokes" were either making fun of millennial women or of a pathetic neighbor who otherwise seemed completely irrelevant as a character. The actresses had the hardest time breathing life into their dialogue and, for the most part, were unable to make the dramatic moments believable with good timing and realistic emotions. It was only the negative aspects of their lives that seemed to come forth strongly, which is why I kept wondering why the play was classified as a comedy. I'm not really sure how an unplanned pregnancy from a guy who lied about wearing a condom was supposed to be funny.
The play's setting is limited to a single room of the apartment. The black door of the apartment featured on the program seemed a little creepier than I would have expected for a play that promised to be light-hearted and thought-provoking. The two girls, Morgan Scott as Brooke and Abbey Shaine Dubin as Lacey, begin by contemplating the color of a pregnancy test. It's a little confusing what they are talking about at first since the props and stage were sparse, but it becomes clear when Lacey states, "I'm late."
To give an example of the difficulties of the script, the two then launch into a winding discussion about what they should do that night. Brooke suggests they grab a bottle of wine and the first chuckle from the audience comes when Lacey says that "it will be an Ernest Hemingway evening." Only, apparently, it hadn't been decided at that point because Brooke gives some condescending advice to Lacey that she should have made sure her partner used a condom, while Lacey's response to most everything Brooke said was to question her motivations and intentions. Even before the bottle of wine has been opened, Lacey is saying to Brooke, "Hug me. I can't believe he did this to me." Finally, we get to the two of them commiserating about how much they hate their lives. Lacey straight out says, "I hate my life" while Brooke says, "There is nothing out there for me" as she apparently can't find work as an actress.
Jim, the neighbor (Eric Doviak) at some point interrupts this convoluted series of one-liners looking for a screwdriver to help put something together in his apartment. Easily the funniest aspect of the play is just how pathetic this 38-year old secretary at a law firm character is. After he gets the screwdriver, Jim returns it the next day and bonds with Lacey who is crying over being pregnant and having her dancing career as a ballerina suddenly placed in potential jeopardy. He insinuates himself into her life as a sounding board with this brief laugh getter, "You left the door open, so I didn't know if that was your silent way of saying it's O.K. to not leave yet."
I felt the actresses handled this strange and awkward intruder situation with realism and measured emotion. However, the situation takes an unexpected twist when we learn Brooke, a Canadian, must figure out a way how to legally stay in the country. One night she is drinking alone when Jim appears with two sets of flowers, one for each of the roommates. Brooke gives this man, who has never been on a date, the run down on how to get a girl while he admits to having benefited from the services of a hooker on various birthdays courtesy of his brothers. Expectedly, the two sleep together and when Lacey finds out the next morning, deep emotional conflict erupts. Jim comes out of the bedroom and refuses to be sent away until they are all friends again. Jim accidentally pushes Brooke and she falls unconscious after hitting her head on a table. Frightened regarding the consequences of what he has done, Jim ties both roommates up but Brooke regains consciousness, escapes her bindings, and attacks Jim with the original screwdriver. During their fight, they happen to stab Lacey in the stomach. While Brooke calls for an ambulance, Jim stabs himself in the heart.
Apartment 301 is like an episode of Friends with half the cast and the plot of a short horror story. I am not sure if the ending was supposed to appear slapstick, but for me, the funniest moment was when Jim pulled away from the accidental stabbing of Lacey looking at bloody hands that had no blood on them. He changed this cleverly by getting blood on his hands while trying to "stop" the bleeding with a paper towel. But back to the point, the play's comedy didn't translate to the majority of the audience for a number of reasons I have already mentioned. The setting, the ambiance, and the script made it difficult for the acting to create the right recipe for laughter. I am not sure what would have helped but not relying on a single character for most of the comic relief would have been a step in the right direction. Tickets at $25.00 and are available on the theater company's website at www.elsinorecounty.com/index.html.