Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review of "Significant Other"

Four very close college friends, still together in their late 20’s, gather to celebrate at a New York City club the engagement of one of their own.  Kiki, somewhat untamed and sloshingly drunk, is having the time of her life with her best pals.   She is the first among the four to tie the knot in playwright Joshua Harmon’s funny, touching, and bittersweet meditation on the true meaning of friendship as millennials age and take the next step in their lives.  The bond between the diverse group could only be forged during the collegiate years.  They are Vanessa, now a book editor, who nonchalantly fixates on death; Laura a school teacher; and Jordan, a gay man working in an advertising agency with Kiki.  Slowly, each of his female buddies becomes involved with the man of her dreams.  Each time an engagement is announced and a wedding celebrated Jordan feels more removed and alone.  His forays into dating and relationships go nowhere and his only solace are conversations with his elderly grandmother.  In the end, Jordan is literally by himself on stage as he, and we, ponder his future.
Gideon Glick, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Sas Goldberg and Lindsay Mendez.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Joshua Harmon has crafted a play full of honesty, comic, and heart wrenching moments.  There is a genuine quality to the storyline and the individuals portrayed.  Harmon has developed characters you may know or experiences your college graduated children may be facing.  You quickly become drawn into the ups and downs of their lives.  I don’t remember a time in the theater where, at two critical moments, the audience both collectively sighed and gasped.   We care about the ramifications unfolding before us.
Gideon Glick.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
The ensemble cast is led by the superb performance of Gideon Glick as Jordan Berman.  He is the focus of our attention during the show as he works through the emotions of losing, one-by-one, his dearest friends.  The actor is lively, spontaneous, and vulnerable.   Lindsay Mendez’s Laura is the soulmate of Jordan.  The two are peas in a pod, sharing moments and experiences.  She instills a realism and sincerity into her character, showing compassion and empathy for Jordan’s travails.  Rebecca Naomi Jones as Vanessa and Sas Goldberg as Kiki are spunky, somewhat over-the-top as they add some spice to the more melancholy moments in the production. Both John Behlmann and Luke Smith, playing multiple roles, give their characters an appealing and agreeable assortment of distinctive looks.  The theater veteran Barbara Barrie’s portrayal of Helene is understated and provides balance to the more destabilized and shifting lifestyles of the other cast members.
Luke Smith, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Gideon Glick, Sas Goldberg and John Behlmann.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Director Trip Cullum brings a fresh and very real perspective to the production.  He has created an atmosphere where the performers come across as authentic in their feelings and actions.  He does a superb job with movement on the small Booth Theater stage.  He skillfully maneuvers the actors within scenes that morph into different segments of the story, all the time keeping the narrative flow unimpeded.  His intermittent use of players within the shadows adds a voyeuristic and humorous touch to the show.  He also imbues the actors with quirkiness and exuberance, primarily in the club and celebratory scenes.

Scenic Designer Mark Wendland has presented a multi-leveled set that, with minimal changes, and subtle lighting effects by Designer Japhy Weideman, effectively combines the claustrophobic nature of New York City living—at work, home and play.

Significant Other, amusing and heartbreaking as it explores relationships and friendships.

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