It’s hard to accept the realization that your BFFs aren’t really F, especially if you’re the single, and more-than-somewhat-neurotic, Jordan Berman. Feeling increasingly alone and abandoned after years of youthful fun, camaraderie, sharing, and support, he worries that he’ll never have a lifetime relationship with that special someone (apart from his obviously aging but ever sage grandmother), as each of his three besties – Kiki, Vanessa, and Laura – meets the man of her dreams, marries, settles down, and moves on to a new phase of adulthood. Playwright Joshua Harmon and Director Trip Cullman make their Broadway debuts with the very funny and ultimately poignant Significant Other, following its sold-out 2015 production with The Roundabout Theatre Company.
While it stretches the imagination to believe that a 20-something gay man, living and working in NYC, wouldn’t have a kindred circle of male friends to laugh with, to relate to, or to confide in, Harmon’s characters are well-drawn and laughably recognizable embodiments of a generation that is quick to indulge and slow to mature. Cullman’s direction skillfully balances the humor and insight of the story, as Jordan’s situation goes from silly to serious, and he is forced to consider the mutable nature of friendship and the difficulty of being happy for others when you are hurting for yourself.
Played with full comedic flair by Sas Goldberg, Kiki, whose drunken bachelorette party opens the play, is outrageously outspoken and shockingly self-centered, totally lacking in self-edit and temperance, and perfectly happy to admit that “I’m gonna be such a fucked up wife” because “I just stopped thinking about other people and I got to this place where it was all about me.” By contrast, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Vanessa is more sardonic, understated, and hilariously dry in her delivery (“When you laugh, just be like, ‘Ha’”), then is the second one to succumb to marital commitment with the new man she meets at Kiki’s wedding, surprising herself that she’s actually happy (“It’s freaking me out! Cause you know me, I’m not a happy person. I like foreign films!”). Lindsay Mendez portrays Laura, Jordan’s former roommate and very best friend, with depth and heart, as she, too, becomes the grown-up he never expected her to be, and the time and closeness she previously devoted to him naturally begin to wane in favor of her soon-to-be husband.
Gideon Glick is irresistible as the insecure, anxiety-ridden, and romantically inept Jordan, who obsesses on the new hunk at the office, engages in hysterically long-winded monologues with his friends and himself (“I feel like maybe this message is a little long”), and explodes with the pent-up sadness and disappointment that he can no longer contain. John Behlmann as Will, the unattainable object of Jordan’s affection, and Luke Smith as Evan, a flamboyant co-worker for whom he feels no attraction, are spot-on in their risible characterizations. And Barbara Barrie turns in a masterful performance as Jordan’s grandmother Helene, delivering her love and concern, fond memories, recognition of the inevitability of loss, and wise advice with gentleness and dignity.
Costume Designer Kaye Voyce fits the female characters with ridiculously believable bachelorette and bridesmaid attire, Choreographer Sam Pinkleton provides amusing scenes of the friends crazy dancing while drinking, and Sound Designer Daniel Kluger underscores the action with the typically mawkish music that couples invariably choose for their weddings. Scenic Designer Mark Wendland’s smart bi-level framework defines the show’s different rooms and changing locales, from work to wedding and home to poolside, brought into focus and color by Japhy Wiedeman’s lighting.
Significant Other tells a very entertaining and consummately human story. It’s witty and sensitive, and it will leave you thinking about the old friends you left behind in an earlier chapter of your own life, whether you were ready to or not.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission.