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Rising Phoenix Repertory (#110 of 2)

Dystopian Days of Disco: David Adjmi’s 3C

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Dystopian Days of Disco: David Adjmi’s <em>3C</em>
Dystopian Days of Disco: David Adjmi’s <em>3C</em>

Some playwrights can both bruise and massage your soul, and if Edward Albee and Harold Pinter lead the category of writers whose whipcracking vigor can feel punishing at times, David Adjmi, whose play 3C is currently on view at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, also belongs to that group. His mixing of realism and absurdity evokes Albee, but kicked into a higher gear, where moods and emotions swerve wildly. Adjmi keeps his audience on its toes by constantly demonstrating how hysterical laughter can signal trauma, and cool civility hide cruel bigotry.

Adjmi’s last play, Elective Affinities, was a one-woman show staged inside a parlor of an Upper East Side mansion. Interviewed by The House Next Door, Adjmi said he was attracted to the play’s character, Alice Hauptmann, because she was an outsider, even though, with her WASP background, she didn’t seem like one. Appearances were also important to Adjmi’s first play, Stunning, about whose characters he said in The New York Times: “They try to create this hard wall of surface to suffice for their wounds—personal wounds, cultural wounds, historical wounds.”

Exorcising the Dark Side: Playwright David Adjmi Talks Elective Affinities

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Exorcising the Dark Side: Playwright David Adjmi Talks Elective Affinities
Exorcising the Dark Side: Playwright David Adjmi Talks Elective Affinities

When a trio of edgy, downtown theater producing companies—Soho Rep, piece by piece productions, and Rising Phoenix Repertory—invite audiences to a tea party in an Upper East Side mansion, there must be something subversive afoot. One of this season’s hottest tickets is a site-specific theater piece entitled Elective Affinities. You take your seat in the parlor of a townhouse which doubles as the richly decorated living room of a well-heeled socialite, the rather grand Mrs. Alice Hauptman, played to the hilt by Tony-winning actress Zoe Caldwell. Caldwell regales her “guests” (30 theatergoers each night) with a witty and entertaining stream of consciousness. Soon enough, Alice’s oh-so-genteel soiree veers into perverse moral territory, leaving you wondering if indeed the choice to bestow love on select people in our lives, demands that we hate the others that don’t share our perspective. The author of this hour-long monologue is 38-year-old Brooklyn-born playwright David Adjmi, who first made his name in New York in 2009 with Stunning, a satirical tragedy drawn from his own Syrian-Jewish roots. We talked recently with Adjmi about his work: