Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Michele Markarian
“Significant Other” opens during a bachelorette party for Kiki (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard), the self-proclaimed whore of her college freshmen dorm. Kiki tells her friends how it was only when she learned to love herself and stop looking that she finally found a man. From the rapt way that Jordan (Greg Maraio), Laura (Jordan Clark) and Vanessa (Kris Sidberry) pay attention, you know that finding a man is tantamount to the friends’ self-worth. Joshua Harmon’s play astonishingly captures the emotional turmoil of your late twenties, when peers are beginning to settle down and your own love life is either a disaster or non-existent. The stress of being single is amplified by the fact that mating season seems less about the mate and more about the wedding and its rituals – the bachelorette party, shower, and first dance.
Jordan is gay, sensitive, Jewish and neurotic (“I hate being a person”, he says at one point). Although he’s close with all of the women, he’s particularly close to Laura, with whom he has a pact – if both of them are still single by a certain age, they will marry and have two children, a boy and a girl. Jordan is serious about this, as well as other situations that may or may not be real – his enormous crush on co-worker Will, for example. Jordan is an intense man who takes his relationships to heart, especially the one with his widowed grandmother, Helene (Kathy St. George), who is there for him with sound advice when others unwittingly aren’t (her take on life: “It’s a long book, and you’re in a tough chapter”).
Maraio delivers a tour de force performance as Jordan, rounding out the character so completely and compellingly that the audience is on his side, audibly sighing when things fall apart. And fall apart they do. Even when Jordan’s pity party compels him to deliver a scathing speech to Laura that would damage even the most durable friendship, we’re rooting for him. And Maraio’s sense of physical comedy and timing is strong – some of his dance moves are hilarious.
Sarah Elizabeth Bedard is perfect as party girl Kiki, Jordan Clark is sympathetic as best friend Laura, and Kris Sidberry vulnerable as the hardened Vanessa. The amazing Eddie Shields transforms himself into three different roles with astounding versatility, and Jared Troillo, also in three roles, is appropriately non-committal as office crush Will. Kathy St. George is adorable as Jordan’s grandmother Helene; the chemistry between her and Maraio is palpable. The set, by Christopher and Justin Swader, is sleek and adaptable, and works well with Daigneault’s fluid direction.
Harmon’s writing reminds me of Annie Baker (“The Flick”) in the sense that you feel like you are bearing witness to real people’s lives and problems. Although “Significant Other” doesn’t wrap itself up into a neat and happy ending, it does somewhat come full circle. As Jordan watches Laura dance with her husband to a song that Jordan and she had picked out for their own wedding, his lips curl into the beginnings of a smile and you get a hopeful feeling that he may just take his friend Kiki’s long ago advice and start to love himself.