note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth
We’ve all been there. We have friends whom we cherish, share our biggest and smallest secrets with, and love hanging out with them.
Remember that song, “Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine?” We’ve been there, too, even after pledging we’d never leave each other, never forsake our friendship, at all costs. Regardless of age, background, economic and social status, losing our dearest friends to love and marriage strikes a chord with us all.
Nobody learns that fact harder than single, gay, 29-year-old guy, Jordan Berman, lead character in SpeakEasy Stage Company’s Boston premiere of Joshua Harmon’s poignant two-act play “Significant Other”. Harmon wrote dynamic play “Bad Jews,” that garnered several awards for SpeakEasy during its run there in 2014.
“Significant Other,” a story about enduring friendship and romantic relationships, is equally as effective and appealing as “Bad Jews,” because it smacks of realism.
It’s so appealing, in fact, that “Significant Other” is heading to Broadway’s Booth Theatre in February 2017, but with the original off-Broadway cast. However, SpeakEasy’s cast is undoubtedly equally talented.
SpeakEasy’s multi-award winning founder/Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault strikes gold again, leading this fantastic cast, composed of East Boston-born-and-bred Greg Maraio in the lead role of Jordan Berman, a single, gay guy living in Manhattan, who shares everything with his three best female friends; Laura (Jordan Clark); Vanessa (Kris Sidberry) and Kiki (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard).
Remarkably versatile, multi-award winning actress Kathy St. George, who’s originally from Stoneham, portrays Jordan Berman’s comforting, supportive grandmother; Jared Troilo, makes super fast costume and character changes, portraying three male roles; as does Eddie Shields.
Christopher and Justin Swader’s borderless, triptych stage flows effortlessly from one space to another, including Jordan and his grandmother Helene’s homes, bachelorette and wedding parties, and work offices. Tyler Kinney’s costumes easily define each character, and Lee Schuna punctuates between scenes with trendy music.
Maraio is superlative as Jordan Berman. He’s funny, nervous, unsure of himself, overall, especially when he approaches new guys to date. He’s as giddy as a junior high school girl. And he needs his friends’ advice and opinions before he makes a move. He even taps his grandmother, Helene, for advice and support.
Maraio, who grew up in East Boston, surrounded by his extended family, strongly identifies with Jordan. He has a special relationship with his own grandmother, who bought him his first theater ticket when he was 10, unaware then that she perhaps set Maraio on his career path. Maraio enjoys his grandmother’s loving attention, and shares Jordan’s and Helene’s touching, symbiotic, empathetic relationship. And Greg cherishes the close female best friends in his life.
Grandma Helene lives alone, surrounded by her memories, but her short-term memory is failling. She dearly misses her deceased husband, and half-joking, tells Jordan she’s ready to die. Reassuring her, Jordan shares Helene’s family photos and memories, keeping her mind active and her will to live on a more positive keel. Their ages are dissimilar, but they share the same lonely lifestyle.
St. George, whose mother is almost 91 years old, fits comfortably in Helene’s skin, mostly because of her mom. In “Significant Other,” St. George uses a footstool that her mother handpainted 50 years ago and still uses at her home, when it’s not on the SpeakEasy set.
Jordan giggles with his three best friends, Kiki, Vanessa, and pragmatic, loyal, BFF, Laura sharing gags at egotistical Kiki’s bachelorette party.
Losing Kiki to marriage isn’t so tough. Jordan confides to his BFFs he harbors a huge crush on Will (Troilo), the gorgeous new guy at work. Both Maraio and Troilo are terrific during Jordan’s gingerly asking Will for a movie “date,” not knowing Will’s sexual preference, and during their uptight, uncomfortable date scene.
Alas, Jordan’s best girlfriends’ lives and romantic paths aren’t staying still, either. Vanessa’s is escalating, after meeting THE guy at Kiki’s wedding, and sooner than Jordan could imagine, Vanessa’s planning her bachelorette party and wedding with Jordan and the girls.
And Laura, good old standby, dependable, always there, always supportive Laura, has also found love on New York’s sidewalk, and she’s ecstatic, planning her wedding, too, but leaving Jordan feeling lost, alone, abandoned.
Jordan unleashes his feelings of betrayal to Laura in two powerful, dramatic scenes. Lamenting that no lover ever said he was in love with him, Jordan feels like the proverbial bridesman - er, bridesman - and questions whether he’ll ever find anyone to share his life or will die alone.
We cry with him, knowing that empty feeling of being alone - again.