Playwright Joshua Harmon punches the theme of his comedy-drama Significant Other right from the top. "Life is supposed to be this great mystery," Jordan declares, "but...it's pretty simple: find someone to go through it with."
The play follows this through-line straight from the cuddly beginning, when four best friends are feeling the angst of their late 20s as singles in the urban jungle of New York City, and wondering when the rest of their adult lives will begin. Jordan, a complicated, insecure gay man, depends on Kiki, Vanessa, and especially Laura for solace, companionship, and late-night cellphone parlor-psychology. However, his safety net begins to fray when party animal Kiki peels off to get married, followed quickly by Vanessa, and Laura, his absolute consolation. The play takes place over the course of three years and these three weddings.
Jordan's other grounded relationship revolves around his grandmother, Helene Berman — elderly and slightly addled, but devoted to him and filled with useful advice. The play alternates between scenes of Jordan's life among his peers and his visits to grandma, to whom he tries to explain the problems of a 21st-century gay bachelor. Grandma is also alone, having lost her husband of 60 years and feeling ready to end it all, much to Jordan's despair.
Harmon writes with a sure hand, deftly mixing laughs with musings about cosmic emotions, especially how it feels to live alone when each of his friends has bunked in with a significant other. Director Paul Daigneault has tapped directly into the heartbeat of Harmon's script in casting and staging this SpeakEasy Stage Company production.
Greg Maraio, always a reliable actor is thrust into a career-defining role. Maraio plays Jordan as a self-doubting, obsessive guy who cannot seem to find the bashert, or soul mate, he so desperately wants. Using body language and facial expressions to convey his hopes and disappointments, he succeeds in making Jordan a character to root for, despite his whining and willful inability to find joy in friends' happiness. The scene where Jordan approaches and then backs away from his computer, clutching his fingers to prevent them from pushing "send" on an inappropriate email to that cute guy in his office, is one of the highlights of the show.
A second lightning strike was casting Kathy St. George as Grandma. St. George, a pint-size singing actor, infuses Helene with love, solicitude, and useful maxims to live by. The rest of the cast is equally excellent: Sarah Elizabeth Bedard as a raucous Kiki, Kris Sidberry as the often somber yet sometimes wild Vanessa, and Jordan Clark as the sympathetic but no-nonsense Laura. Eddie Shields and Jared Troilo alternate as the various men in their lives, including a notable moment for Troilo as a hunk in a bathing suit during a pool-party scene.
Meanwhile, Harmon waxes sharply eloquent about many of the foibles of the millennial generation. These guys and gals might dismiss worn-out rituals, but they insist on huge weddings, excessive prenuptial showers, bachelorette parties, and destination celebrations that threaten to bankrupt their friends. However, beneath the gags, one-liners, and dance-floor moves, Harmon's take on the world inhabited by these 20-nearly-30-something friends is no less bleak than the plays of Beckett. Harmon proves the scariest prospect facing these cusp millennials just might be being left behind by their peers to survive alone in an existentialist landscape.
- Joshua Harmon
- Paul Daigneault
- SpeakEasy Stage Company
- Eddie Shields
- Greg Maraio
- Kris Sidberry
- Significant Other
- Kathy St. George
- Jordan Clark
- Jared Troilo
- Sarah Elizabeth Bedard
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