By Stanford Friedman
Forty-five years ago, in the original Broadway production of Company, Barbara Barrie, as Sarah, sang of her bachelor friend Bobby, “There’s no one in his life.” Now, as a wise and depressed grandmother in Joshua Harmon’s bummer of a comedy, Significant Other, Barrie finds herself in a very similar position. “Is there anyone in your life?” she asks of her gay grandson, Jordan (Gideon Glick). The apparent answer, as Sondheim and Harmon would agree, is that there always is, until there is not.
Ms. Barrie’s presence is not the only element of the evening that harkens back to Sondheim’s classic musical. The two plays share the same basic structure and premise: A lonely guy tries to figure out his loneliness while a group of female friends surround, care for, and abandon him, the way that friends do. Indeed, Significant Other might have worked better as a musical. A score would have mellowed the too on-the-nose observations Jordan and his three gal pals arrive at, as each woman finds a man to call her own, leaving Grandma Helene as the only person Jordan can call who doesn’t forward him to voice mail.
As Jordan, Glick whips himself up into a fine and devastating maelstrom of emotion. Here is a character so pathetically in need that he asks for the sticker off of an apple so that he might have “something that will touch me and cling to me right now.” One can understand him being a mess, given the women in whom he confides. Kiki (Sas Goldberg) is whiny and grating from start to finish, the kind of self-absorbed brat who makes abortion jokes about her unborn child. Harmon writes her part with little depth, still one wishes that Goldberg could have found a tender moment or two to humanize her. Vanessa (Carra Patterson) is a single sad sack who becomes a married happy sack despite herself. But if Goldberg is too hard and Patterson a bit too soft, Lindsay Mendez is just right as Laura, the truest of Jordan’s friends. Her path toward love brings a vitriolic reaction from Jordan that would resonate with anyone who understands the innate desperateness of a single New Yorker on the cusp of turning 30, and the brutal reality that friends sometimes turn out to just be place holders until their Mr. or Mrs. Right comes along.
Harmon offers an offbeat balance of comedy and drama, of character and caricature, and director Trip Cullman deals with the material with equal strangeness, but not without effect. He injects an overload of physical comedy into the proceedings which sets the action spinning at a proper pace. Jordan’s endless anguish over sending an email to his crush is made tolerable by his out of control flailing toward the send button. The finger wants what the finger wants. And despite being a new play that takes place in the present, Harmon’s characters live in a New York where disco dancing thrives and online dating seems not to exist. While clearly being a pro at Facebook and texting, Jordan’s dating pool is limited to his office and his past acquaintances. Pity the protagonist who never finds happiness for lack of the proper app.
Significant Other – Written by Joshua Harmon, directed by Trip Cullman.
WITH: Barbara Barrie (Helene Berman), John Behlmann (Will/Conrad/Tony), Gideon Glick (Jordan Berman), Sas Goldberg (Kiki), Lindsay Mendez (Laura), Carra Patterson (Vanessa) and Luke Smith (Gideon/Evan/Roger).
Scenic design by Mark Wendland; costumes by Kaye Voyce; lighting by Japhy Weideman; sound by Daniel Kluger; choreography by Sam Pinkleton; production stage manager, Samantha Watson; production manager, Aurora Productions; general manager, Nicholas J. Caccavo; associate managing director, Steve Dow; associate artistic director, Scott Ellis. Presented by Roundabout Theater Company, Todd Haimes, artistic director; Harold Wolpert, managing director; Julia C. Levy, executive director; Sydney Beers, general manager. At the Laura Pels Theater, 111 W 46th St., 212-719-1300, http://roundabouttheatre.org. Through Aug. 16. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.