Joshua Harmon's Acute Awareness in Significant Other

The first thing I said to Courtney at intermission of Significant Other…”wow, this play has to be autobiographical in some way.”

I don’t mean that in a condescending fashion or to imply that playwright Joshua Harmon must of had first-hand experience to explain why Significant Other is EXTREMELY accurate…but it is exactly that: so accurate, it’s mind-blowing. Of course, this being Harmon, his way with words and dialogue and HILARIOUS comedy bits (just like his last outing, Bad Jews) reveals his indelible writing talents, making Significant Other, playing at the Laura Pels Theatre, a real stunner of a play and a fully-realized depiction of the mid-to-late twenties social and wedding scenes.

As a proud Bridesman to lovely bestie Jackie and a Man of Honor to BFF of almost-nine years Diana, I am pretty much living out Harmon’s story, where Jordan, a gay man in his late-twenties has his life slowly get upturned as he struggles to find romance while his closest girlfriends all around him are getting hitched and going off on their own. The amount of times I wanted to yell “TRUTH” or “NAILED IT” or “FUCKING A” in response to Harmon’s poignant commentary, whether that be about retrograde wedding conventions (Adults of the world? Men are in bridal parties nowadays, just so you know), the expense that comes with being in a wedding party (see ya, bank account!) or the dating scene (download all of the dating apps you want, it will always be HARD).

But just because Significant Other is the show that most aptly describes my life right now, that doesn’t mean the appeal is limited. If you have ever been that person head-over-heels infatuated with someone or spent too many minutes or hours writing and re-writing texts/e-mails/messages, those moments comprising Jordan’s journey are eerily relatable.

One thing of note regarding Trip Cullman’s direction - who by the way, is one of my favorite working directors of the moment (Murder Ballad, Punk Rock) - is that the hard-hitting realities of Significant Other, including Jordan’s devastating break-down in the second act and the “what is he thinking/feeling?” ending, land the emotional punches without being open-a-vein depressing. I’m not saying you will leave the theatre particularly optimistic regarding Manhattan living in your 20’s given Harmon’s compelling story and the cases presented, but there is too much fun interwoven throughout Significant Other’s story that Cullman knew just what to do to make it a (mostly) even-keel ride, the hilarious bits offsetting the heart-breaking ones in harmony.

Cullman also coaxes great performances out of his ensemble. Gideon Glick and Lindsay Mendez are a hoot to watch sing a not-quite-trying impromptu version of Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” and later on, enacting the most ridiculous, choreographed (but not really) dance to Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” Talk about two “OMG, I’m unable to even” moments that had me hunched over in laughter. Harmon may never top the moment in Bad Jews when “ski suit and Ugg boots” Molly Ranson sings the whitest version of "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, but bless him for putting forth the high-camp efforts. More please...all day, every day. Sas Goldberg, playing the floozy, cray cray girl of the group, is a flat-out treasure - her delivery of her character’s opening monologue almost walked away with the show and we are only a few minutes in.

Another thing I loved about Significant Other? THE. SET. Mark Wendland’s multi-floor, "there’s a room/apartment for every possible purpose” is a stroke of genius. It’s hard to believe all of the different settings in the story take place on one stage without a revolving floor or some gratuitous set-striking, but Wendland’s work is just that great and it looks awesome and modern to boot. How much you want to bet that Michael Greif is gonna hit him up for set designs for his next show? Count on it; it’s a done deal.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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