by Brian Scott Lipton
In his brilliant, if divisive, first play Bad Jews, Joshua Harmon created a neurotic, lonely, but ultimately sympathetic, lead character—one that also provided a bravura showcase for a talented performer. Well, lightning has struck twice in Harmon’s second play, the often hilarious and bittersweet Significant Other, which has made a felicitous transfer to Broadway’s Booth Theatre after a run last year Off-Broadway.
The protagonist this time out is Jordan Berman, a super-neurotic, single, gay Jewish New Yorker portrayed breathtakingly—and sometimes breathlessly—by Gideon Glick. Like so many twentysomething Gothamites, Jordan seems to have little contact with his biological family, except for his slightly addled yet loving widowed grandmother (perfectly embodied by the veteran actress Barbara Barrie), who embraces memories of the past, buys from QVC late at night, and casually talks about the best way to commit suicide.
Instead, Jordan has made a family from his three best female friends: the off-kilter, strong-willed Kiki (the very funny Sas Goldberg), the slightly pessimistic if soulful Vanessa (an excellent Rebecca Naomi Jones), and especially, the level-headed Laura (the superb Lindsay Mendez), a teacher whom he regards almost like a “wife.” (They even discuss the names of their future children and their “ironic” wedding song.) And much like these women — and unlike many gay men — Jordan wants exactly what his female friends want: a stable home, children, and, most importantly, someone to share the daily ups and downs of life with.
As Jordan unsuccessfully looks for love, his friends all unexpectedly find it – and get married, one by one. As they do, Jordan is consistently delegated to the role of wedding reader, as well as cheerleader, and, eventually forlorn observer. Indeed, as Laura takes the marital plunge, Jordan actually goes off the deep end at her bachelorette party. Feeling utterly abandoned and alone, he delivers a scathing, profanity-filled harangue that will seem either unbearably waspish or strike an arrow through your heart. It may depend on how much you relate to this singular character and his situation.
Trip Cullman directs these proceedings, staged on Mark Wendland’s ultra-clever, multi-purpose set, with laser-like precision, getting every laugh out of Harmon’s sharp-witted yet consistently truthful script. Kate Voyce’s contemporary costumes are spot-on (and her wedding dresses are spectacular); Japhy Weidman’s lighting design works beautifully; and Sam Pinkleton contributes some very funny choreography during the wedding sequences.
Cullman is to be equally commended for guiding all of his actors so well (including Luke Smith and John Behlmann in a variety of male roles). But the highest praise goes to Glick, who delivers a truly all-out, no-holds-barred performance, both emotionally and physically, that should be remembered come Tony Awards time. It’s that significant.
Significant Other. Currently running at the Booth Theatre (222 West 45th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue). Tickets are available for purchase on-line at Telecharge.com or by phone at 212-239-6200. Run Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (one intermission)
Photos: Joan Marcus