A play parody gets defense from theater biggies
NEW YORK (AP) — A group of theater community heavyweights — including Jon Robin Baitz, Stephen Sondheim, Tony Kushner, John Guare and Terrence McNally — have signed an open letter defending a playwright whose play parodying 1970's sitcoms has been accused of copyright infringement by lawyers representing the TV show "Three's Company."
The collection of playwrights, theater professionals and performers are backing David Adjmi, whose play "3-C" just ended its run at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre.
The play is about two girls — one a tomboy, the other a sexy ditz — and a guy who spontaneously become roommates in a rundown Santa Monica apartment after a wild party. They clash with a dislikable landlord who makes offensive, homophobic jokes. The playwright is exploring the idea of a culture avoiding hard issues and problems by retreating into sex and drugs
The law firm Kenyon & Kenyon, which represents DLT Entertainment, the owners of the TV sitcom "Three's Company," sent Adjmi a letter demanding that he cease further performances of the play anywhere. The lawyers claim that "3-C" is damaging to a proposed stage version of "Three's Company."
"We really question how many people who signed the petition actually saw the play. I would suspect it's not many," Jonathan D. Reichman, a partner at Kenyon & Kenyon, said Thursday. "With all respects to Mr. Adjmi, if someone did to his play what we feel he did to our show, we think he would be up in arms objecting."
In their defense of Adjmi, the theater professionals argue that his play is a "clearly and patently and unremittingly parody" and accused the lawyers of "bullying."
"Specious and spurious legal bullying of artists should be vigorously opposed, and that opposition must begin first and foremost with all of us in the New York Theatre community," the letter says.
Reichman denied any bullying: "We've licensed the show and elements of the show, including for other parodies over the years," he said. "We've been very flexible and reasonable in working out license terms." He said Adjmi had not approached the firm for permission.
Among those signing the letter in support of Adjmi are the writers Stephen Adley Guirgis, Kenneth Lonergan and new Tony Award winner Bruce Norris, directors and actors such as Martha Plimpton and Joe Mantello, and theater leaders such as the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's Terry Kinney and Lincoln Center Theatre's Andre Bishop.