Laura Pels Theatre
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
111 West 46th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through August 16, $79
Rising playwright Joshua Harmon has followed up his terrific Roundabout debut, Bad Jews, with Significant Other, an utterly engaging and delightfully bittersweet look at four close friends seeking love in modern-day New York. Inspired by Wendy Wasserstein’s Isn’t It Romantic, Significant Other is like an alternate version of Sex and the City, as twenty-seven-year-old college friends Kiki (Sas Goldberg), Vanessa (Carra Patterson), Laura (Lindsay Mendez), and Jordan (Gideon Glick) seek Mr. Right, one at a time. Kiki is the kooky one who is marrying the boring Conrad (John Behlmann) in Kentucky, Vanessa is the sexy, more adventurous viper who says that “death cannot come soon enough” when Kiki insists on setting her up with one of Conrad’s buddies at the wedding, Laura is a teacher who Kiki calls a school marm, and Jordan is a dreamer who obsesses over everything while trying to find true love. “I know life is supposed to be this great mystery, but I actually think it’s pretty simple,” Jordan says. “Find someone to go through it with. That’s it. That’s the, whatever, the secret.” “You make it sound so easy,” Laura responds, to which Jordan adds, “No, that’s the hardest part. Walking around knowing what the point is, but not being able to live it, and not knowing how to get it, or if I ever even will. . . .” As Kiki, Vanessa, and Laura find the one who might or might not be their respective soul mates (all played by either Behlmann or Luke Smith), Jordan falls hard for hot hunk Will (Behlmann), especially when he sees him in a bathing suit at the company pool party, an incident retold in a hysterically horny soliloquy describing nearly every inch of the Adonis’s bod. But Jordan can’t hide or control his feelings, a tendency that often leaves him hanging out with his grandmother (Barbara Barrie), who enjoys looking at old family photos and considering ways to kill herself. The possibilities of love and death keep cropping up as Jordan pines for his own significant other.
Glick (Spring Awakening, The Few) fully embraces Jordan, an endearing character who represents all of our fears and worries about putting ourselves out there for love, about taking a chance, ready to face the consequences, whatever they may be. His tenderhearted vulnerability is something we can all relate to, particularly when he composes an embarrassingly confessional e-mail to Will that his friends warn him not to send, while his finger hovers over his laptop, prepared to expose himself even though he knows better. (It reminded me of a time in high school when I kept dialing the first six digits of a high school classmate’s telephone number, wanting to ask her out on a date but terrified of hitting that final number and actually having to take that plunge.) Goldberg (Stunning, The Best of Everything), Mendez (Dogfight, Wicked), and Patterson (Little Children Dream of God, Luck of the Irish) are a hoot as Jordan’s besties, giving him advice and sharing personal details of their own lives while also representing parts of him that he keeps bottled up. Mark Wendland’s vertical set features different spaces on multiple levels, with Japhy Weideman’s inventive lighting cleverly announcing scene changes. Director Trip Cullman’s (Punk Rock, Murder Ballad) seamless staging maintains a sharp focus on the characters’ psyches while involving the audience with such playful touches as occasionally having blinking colored lights emanate throughout the audience, flashing on heads, hands, and clothing. As he showed in Bad Jews, Harmon has a sharp ear for dialogue and an infectious joy in his storytelling that pulls you in from the very start. “Do you think I’m dead inside?” Vanessa asks Jordan at one point. Significant Other, the second of three works by Harmon commissioned by Roundabout, is bursting with the joy of life, even as it contemplates some hard realities about loneliness.