In “Significant Other,” Jordan is a gay man who has three best friends he met in college, all women, each of whom in the course of Joshua Harmon’s play finds a mate and holds a fancy wedding, which Jordan attends like a loyal soldier going into enemy territory. Unsuccessful himself at finding his significant other, Jordan feels more and more cut off, and fearful of a life of loneliness. “Your wedding is my funeral,” Jordan says to the last and best of his friends, Laura.
If the basic plot were the sum total of “Significant Other,” it would be easier to dismiss as thin, repetitive and self-pitying. But what “Significant Other” has going for it is significant, especially some very funny moments and a supremely winning cast, all but one of them holdovers from the play’s Off-Broadway run last summer.
Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.
Gideon Glick, who made his Broadway debut at the age of 18 as Ernst in the original “Spring Awakening,: is delightful as Jordan, as he interacts with his three friends — Kiki (a sassy Sas Goldberg), nervous Vanessa (Rebecca Naomi Jones, who acquits herself expertly in her first non-musical role on Broadway) and kind-hearted Laura (Lindsay Mendez, who is likewise fine in her first non-musical role on Broadway) – and with their significant others, as well as with the men he dates (all portrayed by two actors, John Behlmann and Luke Smith.)
Glick invests the role with just the right notes of comic awkwardness, energy, and warmth, accompanied by a consistent underscoring of melancholy. He makes his character both adorable and irritating. His plaintive arias of loneliness are so masterfully done that the audience applauds them. His accounts of his dates to his friends are as funny as the best stand-up routines, but they are also spot-on, sure to awaken in the audience some embarrassing memories. He obsesses over a new office colleague, Will ( Behlmann), recounting in eloquent detail to his friends Will’s body, based on a four-second look at it when Will emerges from the pool during an office pool party. (There are such things?) After a pleasant but inconsequential date with Will to see a documentary about the Franco-Prussian War, Jordan writes him a gushing e-mail that all three of his friends insist he not send. Jordan’s late-night struggle with himself trying not to send it is a highlight of the play.
Another are his interactions with Laura, making the most of the playwright’s gift for funny dialogue:
LAURA: You have obsessive tendencies, you know you have obse—
JORDAN I hate when you say I have obsessive tendencies.
LAURA But, you do, and I don’t like–
JORDAN No I know I do, but hearing you say I have obsessive
tendencies makes me feel like, like I need to go to the vet and be put down.
I hate being a person. I wish I was a rock, you know? Or anything. A salamander. Dental floss. Rain. ‘Whatever happened to Jordan Berman? Oh, he turned into rain.’
Glick has some wonderfully touching scenes with the great Barbara Barrie (who made her debut on Broadway in 1955!) as Jordan’s grandmother. These may at first seem imported from another play. But with her encouraging words to her gay grandson, and her talk of her own losses, the playwright seems subtly trying to establish a parallel between those elderly whose love life has ended because of the death of their spouse, and those gay men whose love life has just begun because marriage equality has only recently become law. Seen this way, the title of Harmon’s play can be read with a second meaning. In a society built around heterosexual pairing, Jordan is the Other.
Written by Joshua Harmon; Directed by Trip Cullman
Choreographed by Sam Pinkleton; Scenic Design by Mark Wendland; Costume Design by Kaye Voyce; Lighting Design by Japhy Weideman; Sound Design by Daniel Kluger;
Cast: Gideon Glick, Lindsay Mendez, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Barbara Barrie, John Behlmann, Sas Goldberg and Luke Smith
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $49 – $147