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Written by Joshua Harmon; directed by Trip Cullman
Opened March 2, 2017
A scene from Significant Other (photo: Joan Marcus)
Like his Bad Jews, Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other is crammed with clever, even riotously funny dialogue, along with moments when characters mouth off crassly and snidely. But there’s an emotional weight to the new work that makes it more palatable than the sour earlier play.
We meet 29-year-old Jordan Berman (a name very close to the author’s), a gay man working in a Manhattan office, whose three closest friends are all female: sassy Kiki, fun-loving Vanessa and down-to-earth Laura, with whom Jordan roomed with in college. One by one, each woman meets a man and gets married; Jordan, meanwhile, is unable to begin, let alone sustain, a relationship. Significant Other begins at Kiki’s bachelorette party and ends at Laura’s wedding: in between Jordan becomes ever more desperate to find intimacy, especially when he realizes that the women will not be friends in the same way once they have husbands to prioritize.
But it’s when Laura—his best friend and soulmate—finally finds love that Jordan feels his own loneliness even more forcefully. Making him feel even more pathetic are visits to his loving, elderly grandmother, who both gives him positive reinforcement and makes him feel worse. There are also painfully funny scenes of Jordan trying to date Will, a coworker who agrees to see a bad documentary about the Franco-Prussian war with him, and a failed relationship with Zach, whom Jordan met while interning in Chicago, but who can’t let go of his own recent ex.
Harmon’s likably dark comedy chronicles how relationships constantly fluctuate, and the play’s often amusing conversations lay bare the frayed bonds within even the strongest friendships—like Jordan and Laura’s after her engagement. But the biggest sympathy for Jordan comes courtesy of Gideon Gick’s marvelously shaded performance, in which the shyness, neediness, and bruised but beating heart of this confused young man are laid bare wittily and compassionately.
Jordan’s quartet of women is beautifully embodied by four fine actresses. Sas Goldberg makes a sassy and vivacious Kiki, Rebecca Naomi Jones an appealing Vanessa, and Lindsey Mendez a sensitive and supportive Laura. Barbara Barrie is on hand to provide a lovely oasis of calm as Jordan’s grandmother.
Mark Wendland’s set design spiffily evokes the Manhattan apartments, offices and public spaces these people move through, complemented by Kaye Voyce’s adept costumes and Japhy Weideman’s expressive lighting. Add to all of this Trip Cullman’s knowing direction, which makes Significant Other anything but insignificant.
Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street, New York, NY
One of the most accomplished if underrated British composers of the last century, William Alwyn wrote music in many genres—symphonies, chamber music, concertos, operas, solo piano and vocal works—but his music remains, except for a slew of welcome releases on Chandos in the ‘80s and ‘90s, relatively unknown. That even extends to the often imaginative and dramatic scores he wrote for more than 70 films throughout his career—he died in 1985 at age 79—and Chandos has already released fine recordings of several of his best scores.
This fourth volume, which includes his atmospheric suites (ably reconstructed and arranged by Philip Lane) for such ordinary British titles as On Approval and A City Speaks,continues the label’s winning streak of making this composer’s music available once again. Rumon Gamba conducts the BBC Philharmonic in exciting performances of works from ten different films.
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