"I'm almost twenty-nine years old and no one has ever told me they love me. That's like, a problem, isn't it?" So wonders Jordan Berman, the forlorn protagonist of Joshua Harmon's nigh-perfect new play Significant Other, at the Laura Pels Theatre. As Jordan watches all of his friends meet the person they're going to marry, he starts pondering the excruciating question that plagues most young professionals these days: Where's his?
It doesn't take long for Significant Other to prove itself one of the most astutely observed contemporary works about loneliness and the eternal quest for companionship. With a text that layers humor over a very realistic melancholy, Harmon's second play shows a greater maturity and self-assurance than his first, the ferociously enjoyable dark comedy Bad Jews, and also makes more of a profound impact. With director Trip Cullman at the helm and a fabulous cast led by Gideon Glick in a true tour de force, Significant Other is an extremely relatable must-see.
Taking place over the course of several years, Significant Other begins at a bachelorette shindig where Jordan (Glick) and his best girlfriends are getting ready to send off Kiki (Sas Goldberg) into marriage. The self-absorbed Kiki is the first out of the quartet to get hitched, but not the last. At Kiki's wedding, book editor Vanessa (Carra Patterson) meets Mr. Right, cutting the foursome down to just Jordan and his very best BFF Laura (Lindsay Mendez). But when his own romantic prospects never improve and Laura eventually finds her own plus-one, Jordan finds himself in the midst of an existential tailspin.
Even though Jordan is a gay man, there's a tremendous universality in his struggle to find "the one" as he quickly becomes the last wallflower at the party. (Watching as Jordan is gradually left standing alone is a painfully brilliant element of Cullman's staging). Similarly, Harmon displays a shrewd understanding of the way relationships shift when people start coupling up.
In one wrenching sequence, Jordan, mid-crisis after an awkward non-date, attempts to contact all three of his pals, only to receive their voicemails because they're too busy with their own beaus. In another, Laura's boyfriend Tony (John Behlmann) spells out this change more bluntly: "Thank you for taking such good care of her all these years. She's in good hands." It's a gut-punch of a line that echoes in everyone's ears.
Glick is a perfect fit for the role of the lovable yet self-sabotaging Jordan. This veteran of Spring Awakening and Speech & Debate gets to show off some terrific acting chops as he adroitly navigates Jordan's many layers: his inherent solitude, his nervous energy, and, most of all, his desire to be loved. Harmon provides Jordan with several daunting monologues that Glick systematically nails with such a fierce virtuosity that it sends the audience into a frenzy of applause usually saved for the last inning of Game 7 of the World Series. Or the end of "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy.
Mendez, Goldberg, and Patterson paint vivid portraits as Jordan's trio of gal pals. Mendez is particularly moving when Laura becomes the target of Jordan's vitriol at her own bachelorette party. Goldberg is without fault as Kiki, the boisterous Jewish princess. Patterson has a delicious way with a dirty punch line. The additional male cast members, Behlmann and Luke Smith, deliver fine performances in several roles. And Barbara Barrie adds warmth and dignity amid the madness as Jordan's loving grandmother Helene.
On a compartmentalized set by Mark Wendland that seems to change shape whenever hit with Japhy Weideman's varied lighting, Significant Other mirrors the fluidity of existence itself: One day things are great, the next, everything is different. Were it a Hollywood rom-com, the last shot would be of a Jordan Berman who has found the perfect mate, all of his dreams having come true. But life is no movie, and the final image Harmon and Cullman present is as true to life as can be. The only thing we can hope, for ourselves and for Jordan, is that it really does get better in our thirties.