J CITY Theater Making Comeback with ‘Apartment 3A’

Randall Marquez, Sandy Cockrell and Stephen Hope rehearse a scene from "Apartment 3A"

J CITY Theater is back this weekend for its first full-length production in almost a year after being crippled by Hurricane Sandy.

Starting on Friday, Apartment 3A written by actor Jeff Daniels will show local theater lovers that J CITY is ready to deliver top-notch entertainment and laughs, says director Sandy Cockrell. Last year, she and her husband Clay, the keystones of the company, were devastated by flooding during Hurricane Sandy.

After taking time to regroup (including a vacation in Italy), Cockrell says they are coming back strong for their eighth season, which had a soft kickoff in September with “Jersey Shorts,” a series of short performances.

“We needed to recover here at home, at the theater and in our spirit,” she says, crediting their strong bond with each other for helping them pull through. “We are in tune with each other. We just kind of know when one person has to hold the other one up, even if we’re not articulating it profoundly. We understand how much we want to do things and what it takes to do it.”

Even while traveling, Cockrell was already looking for new material to produce. Daniels’s sardonic romantic comedy came out the winner.

In the show, Annie Wilson, an employee at a Midwest public television station, loses her faith in God, men and even PBS. As she goes through romantic trials, she loses her cool on camera during an annual pledge drive, resulting in unpredictable chaos.

“I thought this play was interesting in how it dealt with social issues and love,” says Cockrell. “It seemed like a nice challenge and it’s bigger than we thought it would be!

“His writing is very complex. Also, it’s nonlinear. The time is convoluted–sometimes we go from day to night in one sentence, or someone could be one or two people at once. It’s a wonderful challenge for designers…and actors. How do we navigate this and maintain the story clearly?” says Cockrell, who is also acting in the show alongside Clay as well as Stephen Hope and Randall Marquez.

“I love the story being told,” she adds. “It’s about hope, which was important (to me and my husband) in our personal situation. We came back together and can move forward with new things and new people.”

“Apartment 3A” premieres Friday, Oct. 11, at 8 pm at 252 Ninth St. It runs on Wednesdays through Saturdays until Oct. 26. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit the J CITY website.

Photo by Niyant Dalal

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.