At bottom, the video of Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other,” presented live online on May 14 with the original cast: Gideon Glick, Lindsay Mendez, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Barbara Barrie, John Behlmann, Sas Goldberg and Luke Smith. It is the second in a series of new live-streamed productions of old plays produced by Broadway’s Best Shows When the show was presented on stage three years ago — first Off-Broadway, then on Broadway — Gideon Glick’s character Jordan feared a life of loneliness. Now, suddenly, nearly everybody is feeling alone.
Having now seen “Significant Other” both on stage and online, I’m struck by the main difference between the two, and how it affected my reaction to the play, both for better and for worse.
On stage, there were costumes, blocking, physical business. All this stagecraft was absent on screen, but, in what felt like compensation, there were close-ups of the performers’ faces. Such close-ups weren’t available to us on stage. So here are Jordan and his three friends talking on stage versus on screen:
The play tells the story of Jordan, a gay man who is soon to turn 30, who has three close female friends. He attempts to find the love of his life, always with the encouragement of his friends, but fails miserably. Meanwhile, one by one, they get married, and he’s left feeling alone — and, more than alone, abandoned. He can’t hide his resentment, and is given to rants.
What works on screen better than on stage are his friends’ reactions to the stories he tells of his various dates, and also their baffled and perturbed reaction to his rants. Out of a still splendid cast, Lindsay Mendez in particular is hilariously expressive
On the other hand, there are moments that don’t work as well as a result. Jordan has been obsessing over a new office colleague Will (John Behlmann) and writes him a gushing e-mail. All three of his friends insist he not send it. So Jordan engages in a late-night struggle with himself trying not to send it. His physical activity — pacing anxiously, going up to the computer index finger in the air divebombing toward the send key, desperately scurrying away, only to be drawn back to his laptop — was the highlight of the show for me. Glick tries valiantly to reproduce that moment on screen using only facial expressions. He’s funny (see screenshots above) — just not as funny as he was on stage.
And then, Jordan is glum in the face of his friends’ marital happiness. On stage, we certainly saw this:
But it feels magnified when all we see is his face. I wish director Trip Cullman had instructed Glick to tone down his facial expressions, or at least had not ended the play with a lingering close-up of Jordan’s devastating sadness. It somehow changes the tone of the play, making it much more of a downer than I had remembered it.