Thursday, March 9, 2017

147. Review: SIGNIFICANT OTHER (seen March 8, 2017)

“Not That Significant”

 
Jordan Berman (Gideon Glick) is a nice-looking, 29-year-old, gay Jewish guy from Long Island, with a nice job and a gaggle of three close girlfriends, Kiki (Sas Goldberg), Vanessa (Rebecca Naomi Jones), and, closest of all, Laura (Lindsay Mendez), his erstwhile roommate.


Gideon Glick, Lindsay Mendez. Photo: Joan Marcus
Sas Goldberg, Lindsay Mendez, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Gideon Glick. Photo: Joan Marcus.
In Joshua Harmon’s (Bad Jews) comedy, Significant Other—so successful in its 2015 Off-Broadway production that it’s moved to Broadway, with most of its cast intact (Jones is the sole newcomer)—Jordan has a problem: his gal pals, one after the other, are finding significant others, getting married, and starting their own families, while Jordan, despite so much presumably going for him, can’t find Mr. Right. Poor Jordan, a subject no one could possibly expatiate about more piteously than the whiny, drama-queen bachelor himself. This, after all, at least as portrayed by Mr. Glick, is a guy who could model for skinny jeans yet worries about his love handle. 
John Behlman, Gideon Glick. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Significant Other takes over two hours to stretch this sitcom premise to its overly pathos-burdened conclusion, as Jordan meets or flirts with several possibilities, goes nuts over one of them, seeks emotional support from his slowly failing grandma, Helene (Barbara Barrie), attends each of his friends’ bachelorette and wedding parties, and takes out his frustrations on Laura when she’s rapturously planning her own. One-liners abound but Neil Simon it’s not.
John Behlman, Lindsay Mendez. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Late in the show, Jordan's over-the-top reaction, like the eleven o’clock number in a big musical, explodes with such vituperative anger and cringe-worthy self-pity it unbalances the more level seriocomic tone of what’s come before; in fact, it’s such a set piece that, distasteful as it is in its attack on Laura’s aspirations for the appurtenances of a more or less conventional wedding, it even inspires a minor outburst of what could be called show-stopping applause. Not, I believe, the most appropriate response to a speech seeking to shock its audience into considering the nasty what, and not the theatrical how, of what’s being said.
Luke Smith, Gideon Glick. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Significant Other, directed by Trip Cullman for his Broadway debut, is staged to a fault to fill the Booth Theatre; one of Broadway’s smallest venues, it still seems overlarge for a play that so clearly needs a more intimate environment. Harmon has structured his play to meld the action seamlessly from scene to scene by mere shifts in lighting and costumes; it all works well enough on Mark Wendland’s sleek design, combining transparent walls, platforms, and staircases, to create a simultaneous setting that allows Japhy Weideman’s lighting to carefully separate one area from another.  
Gideon Glick. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Being the kind of show it is, with millenial New Yorkers at its heart, Significant Other contains plenty of familiar pop music (“Stand By Me,” for one) selected by sound designer Daniel Kluger, and danced to with moves created by choreographer Sam Pinkleston. Kaye Voyce dresses the company in character-defining clothes. She even receives a nice laugh when two of the women appear in the kind of bridesmaid gear that makes some fashionistas pray they’re never asked to fill that role.
Gideon Glick, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Lindsay Mendez. Photo: Joan M
But much of the acting, both the highly lauded Glick’s and that of the actresses, all of it highly polished, is pushed to unnecessarily energy-consuming extremes, making every moment seem like a this-is-about-me bit where I get to show how charmingly funny or dramatic I can be. There are also two fine male actors—John Behlman and Luke Smith—who play three roles each, from overtly gay to sexually uncertain to straight, and manage to do so with interesting variety and considerable restraint (despite the familiar gay stereotyping), while veteran Barbara Barrie, in her mid-80s, offers the most honest performance of all. 
Barbara Barrie, Gideon Glick. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Everything about Significant Other has about it a been-there, done-that feeling, reminding us of TV shows, movies, and other plays with similar characters, situations, and dialogue. The gay angle may be its raison d’être and the reason we pay attention but with just a few alterations the plot of Significant Other could as easily be about any combination of gay and straight characters. Regardless, as puffed up for a Broadway theatre, Jordan Berman’s problem and the drama built around it simply don’t seem significant enough.

OTHER VIEWPOINTS:

Booth Theatre
222 W. 45th St., NYC
Open run




2 comments:

  1. This "play" never really gets to the heart of the dramatic question it raises: namely, why is Jordan Berman alone without an s.o.? He’s bright and witty. He’s a caring, loving grandson (we don’t know about his parents), he’s been gainfully employed for several years (if we were told what he does, I didn’t catch it), and he’s a good friend to his three gal pals. But "Significant Other" settles for sitcom sensibility by not having Jordan take a hard look at himself to see what’s preventing fulfillment; he doesn't even seem to have an inner life. The play conveniently settles on his grandmother’s advice as the answer: it takes a long time to find significant love. It also takes a lot more thought to write a worthwhile play.

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