Review: Marco Players serve up lovely comedy in 'Apartment 3A'

Erin Laughlin (Annie), director Greg Madera and Carl S. Back (Elliot) in rehearsal for the Marco Players production of 'Apartment 3A.'

courtesy the Marco Players

Erin Laughlin (Annie), director Greg Madera and Carl S. Back (Elliot) in rehearsal for the Marco Players production of "Apartment 3A."

What: Broken-hearted PBS executive moves across the hall from a meddling neighbor who cooks her eggs

When: 8 p.m. Wed. - Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. through March 2

Where: 1055 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island

Cost: $25 & $23

Information: Call 642-7270 or themarcoplayers.com

Something Else: The theater is located in the Marco Town Center Mall near the Marco Island Brewery and the Crazy Flamingo restaurant.

Marco Players Theater

1055 North Collier Boulevard, Marco

— Step into the Marco Players production of "Apartment 3A." You'll be glad you did. Donald might make you some of his famous eggs. Elliot might amuse you. And Annie, well, Annie might promise to kill Big Bird. It's that kind of a play. The door's always open. Come on in.

"Apartment 3A" finds public television executive Annie (a delightful Erin Laughlin) searching for a new apartment. No sooner than she's locked the door behind the landlord does neighbor Donald pop over. He's married, so what's the motive? And what happened to Annie's prized kitchen table? Solve the mysteries of "Apartment 3A" - and learn something about the mating habits of polar bears - in what might be the best community theater comedy so far this season.

Greg Madera, who appeared in "Absalom" and "Deathtrap," directs this show with the perfect amount of charm and fizzy energy. Playwright Jeff Daniels writes whimsical dramadies about downtrodden souls finding a second chance at love; Madera skirts the line between sensitive and sentimental with skill.

Madera finds comedy in unexpected crevices of the script. Laughlin's Annie works at a PBS station, where the signature program features the mating habits of polar bears. Laughlin and Carl Back's Elliot growl, purr and claw through a "mating" scene that brings screams from the audiences as well as the stage. Note the sinful commentary of the apple-bedecked pot-holders just above their heads and the way he insists on having characters open doors at every turn.

Laughlin, who played the same role with the former Stage 88 theatre, brings that experience to her passionate, dizzy, goofy and entirely insane but lovable Annie. She makes you feel every ounce of heartbreak when she relates finding her boyfriend "helping himself" to another woman on an antique dinner table or the frustration of working in public television. You'll love her Annie - and root for her.

Madera acts in the show as well as directs, playing the part of Donald. He avoids the messy, mushy swamp of romanticism that could sweep over the play about broken souls putting their pieces back together. I love the aloof but caring disinterest and detached regard. He gets the play's simple but effective timing - and pairs well with both Laughlin and Back's Elliot. Look for R.E. Joyce as cantankerous apartment manager Dal and Otis Tavlin as pony-tailed station employee Tony.

Jim Swanker's trimmed-down set, with a single dining room table, transitions easily from apartment to television station to cafe to love nest. The table serves (see what I did there?) as the repository of the characters' love, hopes and dreams. Once Annie allows herself a meal there, she allows herself to live again. Madera gives audiences the chance to see that in clear fashion. I love the peek of skyline out the window and a kitchen nook that doubles as pledge drive studio.

"Female polar bears reach sexual maturity at about four to five years." Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.

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