By Karen Isaacs
“Significant Other” the play now at the Booth Theater had a successful Off-Broadway run during the 2014-15 season. Its author, Joshua Harmon, wrote “Bad Jews” which has been very successful throughout the world.
This play about four 20-somethings, has two distinctly different moods in its two acts. Quite honestly, I was tempted to leave at intermission; I just didn’t see the humor in the first act that the young audience members were finding hysterical.
But I’m glad I stayed, for the second act was more poignant and heartfelt.
The play focusses on Jordan Berman, beautifully played by Gideon Glick. Jordan is a gay man who has not had much luck with romantic relationships. Right now he has a crush on Will, a hot, new employee at work. But Jordan does have three women friends: Kiki, Vanessa and Laura. Each is single. The three women are his best friends and he is theirs. They hang out together, gossip, bitch and complain about jobs, romances, and life in general.
But what happens when marriage “breaks up that old gang of mine?”
First it is Kiki who marries, but since she was the kookiest of the group, it did not really disturb the balance. Then it was Vanessa. Now it was just Jordan and Laura – the two who were the best of friends. In the meantime, Jordan tries to establish a relationship with Will, but it fails. In fact, Will takes another job in Brooklyn, of all places.
Jordan’s real crisis comes when Lauren gets engaged and begins planning her wedding. While Jordan has been upset that his role in the weddings has been limited to doing a reading; he has attended the showers, the bachelorette parties and all, but was never asked to be a bride’s man or another more prominent role.
He realizes that he is alone. Now each of the women turn first to their husbands to complain or talk, not him. They spend time with their spouses or other couples, not him. His aloneness is compounded by his awkwardness in establishing other relationships. His attempts at cultivating Will were fumbling; advised not to send a rambling email, he resists for a while and then succumbs. The other gay man at work is all that he dislikes, yet the guy seems to be the only one left for Jordan.
Even his Grandmother (the wonderful Barbara Barrie) who he visits regularly is slowly sinking into dementia.
The first act stresses the humor, body part jokes, ribald conversations of the four friends and the initial weddings. But the second acts focusses more on Jordan and we more clearly see him feeling isolated and friendless.
What elevates this play is the fine acting. Gideon Glick who has extensive credits both on Broadway and television, shows us all the dimensions of Jordan – social awkwardness, the neediness and the basic decency.
Of the three friends, Sas Goldberg as Kiki has most awkward role – her character is not only stereotypically “kookie” but she also has some of the most explicit lines and actions. Of the three friends, it is probably the least developed character. Rebecca Naomi Jones plays the “middle” friend – the second to marry. She does a very good job. Laura, seems the most developed of the three characters and is the last marry. Lindsay Mendez gives her a sense that she is the most like Jordan but also the most grounded of the three women.
Barbara Barrie – who plays Jordan’s grandmother – gives us a touching portrayal of a woman, living alone, who is slowly losing touch with reality.
Luke Smith and John Behlmann play a variety of characters – the three husbands, the hunky Will and Joshua’s fellow employee. They do such a good job that you are tempted to believe they are played by different actors.
Trip Cullman has directed this in a way that doesn’t always meld the two distinct emotional tones of the two halves of the play.
Overall, Significant Other, will probably appeal most to younger theater goers, but older people will certainly sympathize with Jordan.
Tickets are available through Telecharge.