By Donna Herman
I laughed, I cried, I split my gloves clapping. An old cliché, but it perfectly describes my experience seeing Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other at the Booth Theater the other night. Well…all except the glove part. Who wears gloves in the theater anymore? The modern audience gives a standing ovation. So I did that. Let’s try this again. I laughed, I cried, I stood on my feet clapping. And coming from me, that’s actually high praise. I’m kind of a snob about this standing ovation business. I think it’s too easily bestowed these days.
And it would be too easy to dismiss Significant Other as yet another comedy with a gay best friend who’s always a bridesmaid, never the bride. For one thing, Jordan (Gideon Glick), the gay best friend in this group of college friends, is the focus of the story for a change. Post college now, the four of them, Kiki (Sas Goldberg) the over-the-top, entitled, princess with a heart of gold dynamo; Vanessa (Rebecca Naomi Jones), the sophisticated, moody, artistic one, Laura (Lindsay Mendez), the grounded, calm, slightly introverted, teacher; and Jordan, the nerdy, insecure, long-winded, gay, only male in the group, have all moved to NYC. They are all working, looking for love, and living in each other’s pockets, sometimes in each other’s apartments.
The structure of the play is simple, but clever. It’s a ten-little-Indians countdown to marriage, with Jordan the last man standing alone at the end. Each girl gets her Romeo and her bachelorette party and wedding, while Jordan doesn’t even actually get to be a bridesmaid. He gets to read a poem. And visit his grandmother (Barbara Barrie) who constantly asks him about his “social life.” She also relives his happy childhood and goes over and over the photos so he can tell his children all the stories. It’s not like Jordan doesn’t try, but he’s a hopeless romantic. He’s not interested in a hookup or a one night stand. He’s looking for the real deal like his grandparents and parents had. He rejects the gay culture’s loveless coupling. And while his women friends find happiness, he gets more and more depressed and angry.
There was an excellent article by Michael Hobbes “The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness” published by the Huffington Post on the same day that Significant Other opened. The astonishing facts are that recent studies show that despite the social and legal advancements gay men specifically have made in the last twenty to thirty years, they are significantly more at risk for depression, suicide and other stress-related health risks than straight males. It’s a public health problem that the medical community is just now beginning to recognize.
We’ve acknowledged that comedians often hide pain behind their jokes. The gay community does that all too well and they have been marginalized and relegated to the sidekick role in our storytelling for far too long. While it may seem like we’re going down that same road in the beginning of Harmon’s play, Jordan emerges as the main character fairly quickly. And while the entire cast is wonderful (kudos to Luke Smith and John Behlmann for each playing 3 completely characters so distinctly), Gideon Glick knocks it out of the park. He made Jordan so relatable to everyone in the audience, that in a couple of scenes the mostly white, middle class audience started talking back to him, or clapping after a rant. I haven’t seen that before in a play about mostly white, middle-class people. And, his performance in the final scene, Laura’s wedding, where I swear I saw unshed tears in his eyes, had me shedding them.
Significant Other by Joshua Harmon, Directed by Trip Cullman
WITH: Barbara Barrie (Helene Berman); John Behlmann (Will/Conrad/Tony); Gideon Glick (Jordan Berman); Sas Goldberg (Kiki); Rebecca Naomi Jones (Vanessa); Lindsay Mendez (Laura); Luke Smith (Zach/Evan/Roger).
Scenic Design by Mark Wendland; Costume Design by Kaye Voyce; Lighting Design by Japhy Weideman; Sound Design by Daniel Kluger; Choreographer, Sam Pinkleton; Production Stage Manager, Samantha Watson; Stage Manager, Kenneth J. McGee; Casting by Carrie Gardner, SCA; Production Management by Aurora Productions; General Management by Richards/Climan, Inc.; Produced by Jeffrey Richards; Originating Producer, Roundabout Theatre Company; Rebecca Gold, Producer; Ronald Frankel, Producer; Spencer Ross, Producer; Ira Pittelman & Tom Hulce, Producer; Patty Baker, Producer; Candywendyjamiepaula Productions, Producer; Gabrielle Palitz, Producer; Terry Schnuck, Producer; Mark S. Golub & David S. Golub, Producer; Caiola Productions, Producer, Adam S. Gordon, Producer, In Fine Company, Producer, Cody Lassen, Producer, Aaron Priest, Producer, Darren P. Deverna & Jeremiah J. Harris, Producer, Will Trice, Producer; The Schubert Organization, Producer. For tickets call 212-239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com