Review: ‘Significant Other’ Has Us Laughing Through Tears
By Jil Picariello, Theater Editor, March 3, 2017
Significant Other is either the saddest play I ever laughed my way through or the funniest play I ever left in tears. I’m not sure.
The laughs come with the frequency of a really good TV comedy, and that’s not a disparagement. A well-written, perfectly cast, laugh-filled comedy (think Seinfeld or Cheers or, my current favorite, Veep) is a thing of beauty.
So is Significant Other, which, at times reminds me of another favorite TV comedy, Will and Grace. Remember when Grace met that gorgeous Southern Jewish doctor (surely some kind of Jewish woman’s hat trick!) played by Harry Connick, Jr. and fell in love and, eventually, got married? Remember how Will felt jealous, and lonely, and left behind?
That’s the nutshell of Significant Other, an endearingly sweet-and-sour comedy written by Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews). Jordan Berman, brilliantly played by Gideon Glick, is the archetypal gay best friend, only in his case, he is the GBF to three women: self-involved Kiki (Sas Goldberg), intense Vanessa (Rebecca Naomi Jones), and his closest friend and former college roommate, the semi-sad and warm-hearted Laura (Lindsay Mendez).
All three are wonderful, but it’s Jordan’s story, and his increasing anxiety, sorrow, and near-desperation as he watches his closest friends pair off and marry, is palpable, even while you’re laughing at the jokes. Jordan is pushing 30, and has never been in a serious relationship. He is endearingly awkward, at least to the people who love him—which comes to include those of us in the audience. But to potential partners, the endearing veneer wears thin as the desperation shines through, and his growing anxieties make things worse.
Glick’s performance carries the play, delivering sweetness instead of sentimentality and turning what could easily be a far too shallow and irritating character into a heart-wrenching portrait of a good person in trouble. Jordan isn’t a perfect man—he’s sometimes petty, far too self-involved, and hurtful to the women who love him—but Glick’s is a perfect performance.
Director Trip Cullman maintains the pace perfectly, and the multilevel set by Mark Wendland smartly handles the many changes of scene without a pause. John Behlmann and Luke Smith play various men in the story so well that it seemed like a cast of 20 instead of 7. And the wonderful Barbara Barrie, as Jordan’s widowed grandmother, is dryly charming. My favorite line of the night was hers, as she consoles her grandson: “You’re in a tough chapter…but the book is long.”
The unsentimental ending does not spare harsh reality, and the hopefulness of that line helps stem the tears. But Significant Other, and Gideon Glick’s Jordan Berman, will leave you sad, even after all the laughter.
Significant Other at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street opened March 2, 2017 for an open run. Run time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. Written by Joshua Harmon. Directed by Trip Culman. Cast: Gideon Glick, Barbara Barrie, John Behlmann, Sas Goldberg, Lindsay Mendez, Luke Smith, Rebecca Naomi Jones.
Cover: Lindsay Mendez and Gideon Glick in ‘Significant Other;’ photo: Joan Marcus.