Friday, November 21, 2003

Clara Chorley plays Annie and Gene DeFrancis plays her neighbor Donald in the adult-themed love triangle "Apartment 3A."

star on stage

Are you ready for some adult entertainment? While sometimes bawdy, "Apartment 3A," the latest offering from Manoa Valley Theatre, attempts something a little more mature in a theme that features three first-time actors under the direction of Bill Ogilvie.

'Apartment 3A'

Presented by Manoa Valley Theatre

Where: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2883 E. Manoa Road

When: 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, 4 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Schedule repeats through Dec. 7

Tickets: $25 general; $20 seniors and military; $15 for 25 and under

Call: 988-6131

The triangular relationship of Annie, Jared and Donald (Clara Chorley, Jared Jeffries and Gene DeFrances, respectively) is an all-too-familiar one. Annie and Jared work at a Midwestern public television station; she's coming off a failed relationship and he's smitten by her. Looking for a fresh start, she rents said apartment, where she meets Donald, a mysterious neighbor. Donald, sensing her unhappiness, attempts to be a go-between, but the growing feelings between Donald and Annie complicates matters.

"Apartment 3A" debuted at actor-playwright Jeff Daniels' The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Mich., about seven years ago. The theater's name was inspired by his feature role in Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo," and "Apartment 3A" is Daniels' sixth play.

The Manoa production's three leads studied with Ogilvie at Diamond Head Theatre and, according to the director, are primed and ready to make their Hawaii stage debuts in what Ogilvie describes as an intelligent, multi-layered piece of adult theater.

"Clara's closest experience to the stage was as a member of Toastmasters and Gene just got out of the Navy, but he's had some bit parts with the Army Community Theatre.

"When they all came out for the auditions, I thought they were perfect for the roles."

Jeffries, who moved here about 10 years ago from Bakersfield, Calif., initially got into commercial radio, working nights at I-94 with Augie Tulba.

Jeffries describes his character as being "a bit on the nerdy side, but good hearted. He's infatuated with this girl who works with him, but she's either been in a relationship or never given him the opportunity to go out with her.

"In the play, he's still pursuing (Annie), but he has this nervous tic whenever she's around him. She's aware of the effect she has on him and she kind of plays around with it, and it's meant to be good-natured. But he's trying to score lunch, dinner, anything with this girl.

"There's no doubt I can easily relate to this guy in some way shape or form, tapping into his nervous energy for my own performance. But I have to have that perfect balance of believability."

Jeffries said that with his own family, "I tend to be a lot of characters at home, too.

"I remember, as a child, acting out things. But the radio thing definitely put the acting bug in me, and being away from it now, I felt a void, with no outlet for all this creative energy I have. Thankfully, I was encouraged by my spouse to get into acting classes."

There's a love triangle going on at Manoa Valley Theatre. "Apartment 3A" stars Marc Munasque as Dal and Clara Chorley as Annie.

OGILVIE welcomed the opportunity to work with neophytes.

"They're all just incredibly talented," he said, "raw but getting better every day. They're wild in a good sense, because they don't hold back. There was a lot of learning, but it was that rare convergence of actor to role.

"Annie is feisty, idealistic and very eccentric, while Donald is very worldly wise and charming. Elliott is the nerd, not totally shy or retiring, but aggressive, nervous and slightly insecure.

"Since both Annie and Elliott work at a public TV station, some of the play deals with the threat of canceling 'Sesame Street' because of lack of funding." (Her impassioned, if crazed, on-air plea to save the show reportedly is the play's funniest scene.)

"Even though the main actors may be unseasoned, they're incredibly devoted to their craft," Ogilvie said. "While they're dealing with the technical aspects on moving around an open, non-proscenium stage, the acting part has come very, very well naturally. They may have felt that they were in over their heads at the beginning but, over time, they've become totally engaged in the challenge.

"I'm grateful to MVT for picking this play as part of its new season -- it's definitely for adults, but it's a wonderful piece of theater. It'll engage the audience on an intellectual, emotional and gut level.

"There are some racy scenes and overt sexuality, but we're playing it very sensitive and doing it very low-key. It's all done in healthy context. Actually, it's a miracle, because the play deals with sexuality on a very healthy level, to the point where the discussions bring the characters closer to God."

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