Apartment 6 & 9 is a pair of one-act comedies (All Aboard The Marriage Hearse and Stay Over) which showcase Matt Morillo’s talents as a writer/director, his gift for intelligent dialog, and his insights into the many ways that “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” 

In All Aboard The Marriage Hearse, cohabitating couple Sean (Keenan Henson) and Amy (Jessica Moreno) have just returned to Apartment 6 following yet another friend’s wedding.  Since Amy has caught the bouquet and Sean the garter, it’s no wonder when Amy proclaims, “It’s fate. Everyone wants us to be together.” For a moment it seems that Sean is in agreement. He gets down on bended knee and … puts a scrunchie on her leg.

“What?!” exclaims Amy, who has allowed herself for a moment to think that maybe, just maybe, after nearly three years together, Sean might have changed his mind about marriage.

As if …

“Weddings,” declares Sean, “are like porn for women. They scramble your minds.”

And we’re off, Sean and Amy beginning a discussion which turns into an argument which ends up an out-and-out fight—one which will change their relationship forever.

Sean trots out all the standard anti-matrimonial arguments.  Marriage is an outdated, unnecessary religious institution, and besides, since Amy had already read his magazine column “All Aboard The Marriage Hearse” before they met, she should have known from the beginning that for him, marriage is nothing but a sentimental, romantic cliché. 

As Amy enumerates her reasons for wanting her own wedding, Sean rips them apart one by one, leaving only Amy’s last and “best reason,” which is a simple one. “I just want it.”

As the couple in Apartment 6 continue their verbal sparring, playwright Murillo makes incisive observations about how very opposite the two sexes are. Sean believes that being in a relationship is more of a commitment than being married because it is one that a couple makes every day. Amy counters by reminding Sean that she’s given him everything, helped him, compromised for him, and that if he now has everything he wants, it’s because of her.  Sean insists that even without a piece of paper he still sees them together in forty or fifty years. Amy says she can’t stand being the only teacher in her elementary school who’s still single, and how is she going to explain it to her students when their unmarried teacher gets pregnant?

Is marriage a trap?  Is it the ultimate expression of love?  The ultimate expression of fear? Is marriage a myth?  Is it, as Sean claims, “Santa Claus for adults?”

As All Aboard The Marriage Hearse stretches out into the following morning, comedy turns to drama and the audience becomes steadily more invested in Sean and Amy’s story, one which is both universal and specific.  That Morillo manages to end this two-scene, almost two-act play in a totally satisfying manner is amazing indeed.

Besides Morillo’s writing, the best reason to spend time in Apartment 6 is Moreno’s riveting performance. Like quicksilver, the actress is always “in the moment,” and her responses have a spontaneity that comes from really listening, not for cues but for what the other character is actually saying.  Henson is less successful at this, though by the end of the play, as Sean gets to the heart of his feelings for Amy, the actor gets close.

Following intermission, the 6 on the door of Davis Campbell’s nifty New York apartment set has flipped over to become a 9, and it now belongs to Mark and Michelle (Tom Pilutik and Moreno), a couple who have recently been (a la Ross and Rachel), “on a break.” Unlike the Friends duo, however, Mark was given permission to sleep with someone else during break time.

Men being men and women being women, Mark took Michelle up on her offer, and his girlfriend is pissed as hell.  “She came here?” Michelle asks incredulously. “Did you offer her something to drink? Did she sit here?” Grabbing a can of air freshener, Michelle proceeds to spray the sofa—and just about everywhere else that “the other woman” might have touched. Not content with getting rid of her rival’s cooties, Michelle asks for details.  Where?  When? How many times?  (Mark’s answer to that is “more than once and less than ten times.”)

“She was a fling,” insists Mark. “Nothing more than that.”  And besides, how can Michelle complain when she was in total agreement about what he could or could not do during their break?

The answer Michelle gives is as old as Adam and Eve. Men cheat for fun, for adventure. Women cheat because they want to be with the new guy forever.

Before long, anger has turned to lust, and Mark and Michelle have just begun to tear each others’ clothes off when who should arrive but Michelle’s 10-years-younger cousin Lily (JessAnn Smith), who turns out to be …

“Lily?!” screams Michelle. “You are fucking my little cousin?”

“I didn’t mean to start anything,” interjects Lily in a voice that butter wouldn’t melt.  “I just came over to say hello.”

As if…

Though Stay Over is lighter in tone than All Aboard The Marriage Hearse, Mark, Michelle, and Lily are considerably less likeable than Sean and Amy, and the lack of a single sympathetic character detracts from the fun inherent in the farcical setup. Moreno once again does excellent work though, as do Pilutik and Smith. Smith particularly shines as someone whose sweet and even ditzy exterior hides a considerably more calculating young woman than she initially appears to be.  The actress also does something which, if revealed her, would certainly increase ticket sales to heterosexual males and lesbians. But my lips are sealed.

All Aboard The Marriage Hearse is the highlight of Apartment 6 & 9.  Were it divided into two acts instead of two scenes, it would be almost long enough to stand on its own.  If Morillo can find a way to lengthen it a tad without the extra pages seeming like padding, it would make for a satisfying evening of theater all by itself. Extra snaps to Morillo for writing an honest-to-goodness play, and not a movie script masquerading as one.  (Snaps also to lighting/sound designer Matt Richter, to Smith and Bobby Galaxy for their original music, and to Smith for choreography with assistance by Erin Porvaznika and Wendy Pepper.)

Though not without its flaws, as a showcase for a talented young playwright and his terrific leading lady, Apartment 6 & 9 is worth stopping by for a visit.

KADM Productions, Lounge Theatre,6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. www.kadm.com

–Steven Stanley
June 14, 2009

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