by Ryan Leeds
You might, as Rihanna sings, “find love in a hopeless place,” but you won’t find anything particularly worth the hefty price of an orchestra seat at the Booth Theatre, where playwright Joshua Harmon’s moderately appealing comedy, Significant Other, currently resides. Harmon’s play has made the leap from a successful run Off-Broadway at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre to Broadway, leaving seasoned theatergoers to ask themselves, “Is this really necessary?”
Harmon’s play begins in the present day, where Jordan Berman (Gideon Glick) is at a night club, dancing to the aforementioned song with reckless abandon alongside his closest lady friends Kiki (Sas Goldberg), Vanessa (Rebecca Naomi Jones) and Laura (Lindsay Mendez). Berman, a 20-something, gay, pie-eyed optimist is lucky to have such great friends around him, but is missing one key element: love. One by one, he watches as his closest confidantes find the men of their dreams.
Berman is stuck. Though he’s cute and charming, he can never quite seem to land a date, much less a committed relationship. His feeble attempt at wooing an elusive co-worker ends in disaster. Berman spends a great deal of time thinking about Will (John Behlemann), a colleague who Berman pines for but whose sexual preference and reciprocated romantic interest is opaque. The pair goes on an awkward “date” to watch a film documentary on the Franco-Prussian war. Berman becomes obsessed with his post-movie follow-up and, in one of the few laugh out loud moments in the show, vacillates on whether he should send Will the email he’s drafted.
Stage and screen star Barbara Barrie rounds out the cast as Berman’s grandmother, a somewhat solemn widow whose friends have all died. She’s reached a point in her life when she feels useless, but still manages to muster sage advice to her lovelorn grandson. “You’re just going through a rough chapter,” she says, “but it’s a very long book.”
Glick is excellent and extremely likable, causing the audience to root for him. We want him to get the boy. However, there is also a strong sentiment of annoyance at his lack of trying. Anyone who is—or has ever been—single in New York knows that the attempt at finding true love can be more difficult than hosting a legitimate news outlet at a White House press conference. We complain about the apps, social media, and online dating but most of us know that they are necessary evils. Cupid can’t shoot his arrow if we’re not even picking up the bow.
Perhaps it is out of fear and deep insecurity that causes Berman to lounge on the sidelines of love. Harmon delves into this psychology and also paints the typical relationships that gay men have with their closest female friends. It is a tough reality that many face when, as Ira Gershwin famously wrote, “They’re playing songs of love, but not for me.” Still, the only new aspect of this often told plot line is that it is viewed through the lens of a gay man. Ultimately, it’s just not enough.
Director Trip Cullman, who makes his Broadway directorial debut, directs the work with an able hand. He also directed the Off-Broadway incarnation and is able to pull great performances from his cast. Significant Other is the type of the show that would be perfectly fine in the confines of an Off-Broadway theatre, but it just seems ill fitted in a cavernous Broadway house.
Mark Wendland’s set looks sharp and offers great flexibility as a club, office, and apartment. Significant Other translates simply to a good date: It’s attractive, it has some wit and a decent personality, but there’s just not enough substance for a full-fledged commitment of time or money.
222 West 45th Street, NYC
Through July 2
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.