I had the pleasure of seeing Joshua Harmon's Significant Other in summer 2015, when it premiered off-Broadway. I loved it. I had never laughed and cried so much in a single show. Just like in his breakout play, Bad Jews, Harmon beautifully fused humor with pathos, making for a thoroughly entertaining and moving work. It has lost nothing in its transfer to Broadway, and, in fact, gained the terrific Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot, Marie and Rosetta) as a cast member.
Significant Other deals with how relationships change over time, as seen through the eyes of Jordan (an affecting Gideon Glick (Spring Awakening, Speech and Debate)), a 29-year-old single gay man whose three best girlfriends are beginning to marry off and develop their own lives. (Jordan also has regular visits with his grandmother (Barbara Barrie), whose age, of course, comes with wisdom.) We begin at Kiki's bachelorette party. Kiki (a hilarious Sas Goldberg) is the first of the crew to wed. It's at this party that Jordan and Laura (a vulnerable Lindsay Mendez (Godspell, Dogfight)), with whom Jordan is closest, have a heart-to-heart about marriage and finding the one.
Once again, I was utterly struck by Jordan's summation of what it all means: finding someone to go through it with. "It" being the small matter of life. Laura replies that it sounds simple, and Jordan laments the fact that it's actually the hardest part, knowing the point and not being able to do it. This is the tone playwright Harmon and gifted (and busy) director, Trip Cullman (The Layover) sustain throughout: bracing honesty with some lightheartedness and laughs throughout, tracing the highs and lows of relationships.
And each relationship is different. I appreciate the way Harmon defines Jordan's distinct relationships with each of his three gal pals. Kiki gets most of the flash. With Vanessa (Jones), the conversations are a little deeper, yet still playful. But Laura is his best and closest friend. Whereas Jordan tells Kiki and Vanessa about the amazing first date he has (with Evan (Luke Smith, playing a few roles), he saves the devastating break up for Laura. This is why their rift stings the most.
Throughout, Jordan is grappling with wanting to be happy for his friends but also wanting to be happy himself, and struggling with the chasm between their happiness and his loneliness and feelings of loss. These friends are used to sharing everything. They dissect things to a minute degree. With none of them really having a clue how to do it, you wonder if this is more harmful than helpful. Still, they're there for one another, until, of course, they're not.
When Jordan meets Laura's boyfriend, Tony (John Behlmann, playing a few different roles, including Jordan's crush, Will), Tony steals a moment alone with Jordan and says, "Thank you...for taking care of her." In that moment, Jordan realizes that while Laura is gaining a love, he is losing his significant other. Their blow out in act two kicks off with Jordan throwing down the gauntlet and proclaiming, "Your wedding is my funeral." It's here that Jordan says all the things you're not supposed to say about your friends' happiness. You're not supposed to admit, of course, that you are maybe jealous of their happiness, or find it bittersweet since you know nothing will ever be the same again.
I overheard a couple of young ladies talking about the play as we all left the theatre. They couldn't related to Jordan, and thought he was a bad friend. I found it difficult not to relate. How can you not relate to being lonely? How can you not relate to having mixed emotions over something? How can you not relate to the feeling that you're losing your favorite people, the ones who make all the tsuris worth it?
When none of his friends are available, Jordan has a poignant conversation with his grandmother. She talks about dealing with the death of her husband, and says you never get over it, you just get through it. Off-Broadway and on, I was moved by the final tableau, which finds Jordan by himself getting through it.