Sunday, June 21, 2015

Margin Notes: Significant Other

Gideon Glick, Lindsay Mendez, and Carra Patterson as Jordan, Laura,
and Vanessa. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Seen on: Friday, 6/19/15.
My grade: B+.

Plot and Background
Jordan, a young single man in New York, is the perennial Gay Best Friend to his three ladyfriends, each of whom seems to be finding and marrying a man in quick succession - and leaving Jordan in the dust. That doesn't mean he's not trying to find love - he's in fact rather obsessive in his infatuation with a coworker - but luck does not seem to be on his side, and he's becoming more and more afraid he'll be left all alone as his friends build families in which he does not fit. This is a new play by Joshua Harman, known in New York for his recent play Bad Jews.

What I Knew Beforehand
Nothing. I missed Bad Jews, so all I really knew going in were the work of some of the cast and the director.


Play: The play moves at a brisk and satisfying pace, slipping from scene to scene with no transition beyond a light change and a character entrance. It's an engaging rhythm, putting us firmly into Jordan's stream of consciousness as he experiences the world, going from friend to friend, to grandmother, to flirtation, to another bachelorette party. The play is equal parts genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreaking, as Jordan's plight becomes more and more dire. While the plot itself may not be treading much new ground, the pain the characters feel is all the more real because of how genuine the relationships are between the four friends, and between Jordan and his grandmother. They all love each other, but how far does that love extend? I will say that eventually the increasingly frantic neurotic monologues by Jordan pile too high on each other without the balance of quiet, and I did start to tune out - but then comes a welcome scene of honesty between Jordan and his aging grandmother, who reminds him, "It's a long book, honey. You're in a rough chapter." This play has some similar themes to another play I saw recently, Nice Girl - a fear that life and love are passing you by - and while I liked both, I think at the end of the day, the fact that Nice Girl ended a bit more hopefully than Significant Other is enough for me to prefer it (regardless of the fiction I myself tend to write, I do prefer stories that have hope in their worldview, or at least some kind of positivity for the future). This was still extremely well done, but it's hard to love watching someone in despair.

Cast: Gideon Glick is superb as Jordan, delivering his increasingly panicked speeches at a good but intelligible clip, alternating fragility with a rather resentful rage against the happy people in his life. The ease with which he slips into Jordan's awkwardness brings a familiar blush and cringe to anyone who's accidentally done some of the things Jordan can't seem to stop himself from doing. Sas Goldberg and Carra Patterson, as Kiki and Vanessa, are both quite good, but it is Lindsay Mendez as Laura - the last holdout of Jordan's friends to get married - who has to carry the emotional burden of all of Jordan's resentment in his 11 o'clock bitter outburst. She's always been a dramatic heavy hitter, and it's great to see her with another meaty role, trying to wrestle her love for her friend against how much he's hurting her. And of course Barbara Barrie, as Jordan's grandmother, has a lovely grounding energy, a sweetly dry attitude toward her declining years, and a supportive, if not entirely informed, love for her struggling grandson.

Design: Mark Wendland's modular set is aesthetically pleasing, full of pods behind scrim containing little used rooms that serve as dioramic (totally a word, shut up) backdrops to place the scene performed on the more or less voidish front area. Japhy Weideman, who I swear to god has designed 300 shows this year, contributes greatly to this with the structure of lighting the pods, of brightly flashing lights for the parties, along with the throbbing beat of Daniel Kluger's sound design.


Running: Now playing at Laura Pels Theatre (Roundabout Theatre Company) - Opened: June 18, 2015. Closing: August 16, 2015
Category: straight play
Length: 2 hours, 15 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: Joshua Harman
Director: Trip Cullman
Designers: Sam Pinkleton (Choreography), Mark Wendland (Set), Kaye Voyce (Costume), Japhy Weideman (Lighting), Daniel Kluger (Sound).
Cast: Barbara Barrie, John Behlmann, Sas Goldberg, Gideon Glick, Lindsay Mendez, Carra Patterson, Luke Smith, Brooks Brantly, Alice Cannon, Ben Edelman, Ariel Woodewiss.

Barbara Barrie and Gideon Glick as Helene and Jordan. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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