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,” now at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre.
The protagonist this time out is Jordan Berman, a super-neurotic, single, gay Jewish New Yorker portrayed breathtakingly – and sometimes breathlessly – by Gideon Glick (best known for “Spring Awakening”). Like so many Gothamites, Jordan seems to have little contact with his biological family, except for his slightly addled yet loving grandmother (perfectly embodied by the veteran actress Barbara Barrie). Instead, he has made a family of his three best female friends: the superficial, strong-willed Kiki (the very funny Sas Goldberg), the slightly downtrodden if soulful Vanessa (a fine Carra Patterson), and especially, the frumpy, level-headed Laura (the superb Lindsay Mendez), whom he regards almost as his “wife”.
As Jordan unsuccessfully looks for love in all the-right places, such as his office where he meets the dreamy, laconic Will (John Behlmann, who effectively tackles a variety of roles), each of his pals finds her soulmate. And Jordan is not, despite 21st-century mores, always a bridesmaid, but is consistently delegated to the role of wedding reader, as well as cheerleader, and forlorn observer.
Unlike some gay men, Jordan wants exactly what his friends want: a stable home, children, and someone to share the daily ups and downs. A romantic of sorts, he doesn’t “believe” in casual sex, as he explains to his more stereotypically gay co-worker Evan (Luke Evans), who is baffled by that declaration, explaining to Jordan that casual sex is not a religion, but a fact of life.
When Laura takes the marital plunge with the admittedly wonderful Tony (Behlmann, again), Jordan goes off the deep end, feeling utterly abandoned, and delivers a scathing harangue that could well become a go-to-audition monologue for many young actors. Whether his words seem unbearably waspish or strike an arrow through your heart 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 (if somewhat overlong) script. Cullman is to be commended, as well, for guiding Glick to deliver the kind of all-out, no-holds-barred performance, both emotionally and physically, that some actors might be afraid to.
Ultimately, “Significant Other” may not end up being a significant addition to the theatrical canon, but it serves up an evening’s entertainment, food for thought, and a starring role that actors around the country will be dying to sink their teeth into.
Significant Other continues through August 16 at the Laura Pels Theatre (111 West 46th Street). Call 212-719-1300 or visit www.roundabouttheatre.org for information.