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Cupid’s Fleeting Arrow: ‘Significant Other’

March 3rd, 2017 Comments off

by Ryan Leeds

Gideon Glick, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Sas Goldberg and Lindsay Mendez in 'Significant Other.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Gideon Glick, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Sas Goldberg and Lindsay Mendez in ‘Significant Other.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

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.

Gideon Glick in 'Significant Other.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Gideon Glick in ‘Significant Other.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

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.

Barbara Barrie in 'Significant Other.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Barbara Barrie in ‘Significant Other.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

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.

Significant Other
Booth Theatre
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.

 

 

Review: “Murder Ballad” Isn’t Quite Killer

June 1st, 2013 Comments off

Contributor Scott Redman discovers that Murder Ballad may not have all the thrills and chills that its title implies. 

Will Swenson as "Tom" and Caissie Levy as "Sara." (photo: Joan Marcus)

The Union Square Theatre has been transformed into a gritty downtown dive bar, which sets the scene for the overwrought Murder Ballad — a sung-through rock musical by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash. The production enjoyed a sold out run earlier in the year at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Studio at Stage II and has transferred to a commercial open-ended run at the Union Square location.

The show is billed as a “love triangle gone wrong,” which may be accurate but not necessarily interesting. Sara (played by Caissie Levy) is a downtown hipster getting it on with her favorite bartender Tom (played by Will Swenson). Things are hot and steamy until she falls for Michael, a brainy scholar (played by John Ellison Conley). The two dash off, get married, move to the Upper West Side and have a kid, but when things start to get a bit dull, Sara seeks out her past love and a volatile mess ensues. Lurking in the background is a narrator/club singer (played by Rebecca Naomi Jones) who has a crush of her own…

The writing suffers most from its over simplistic story joined by a dull score that fails to create nothing more than a white noise underscore. The show is set up as a cautionary tale filled with seduction and lust but delivers itself as an average affair dusted with a bass drum and occasional guitar riff. The tempos rarely change and there is a lack of style to differentiate between scenes and characters. The quartet of onstage actors each exhibit vocal prowess throughout the evening, but it has little dramatic effect due to the empty material.

Rebecca Naomi Jones as “The Narrator.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

Rebecca Naomi Jones as the omniscient Narrator and conspirator of the piece is a stand-out. Jones honestly delivers her interpretation of sex and scandal that gives a true reality to her character and performance. Caissie Levy as Sara is another powerhouse belter who tries to sculpt what she can from the lumpy source material. Sara is the most tortured of the group dealing with her demons of lust and trying to maintain her new Upper West Side life. John Ellison Conlee who plays Michael – the older, sophisticated scholar, seems a bit miscast and there seems to be a lack of chemistry with Levy. Sara’s attraction to Michael is never fully developed. Is she chasing his money, attracted to his intelligence or is it just a way to escape her past life living downtown and hanging out with bartenders? Will Swenson embodies his downtown rough and tumble character, but once again, his motivations appear one dimensional.

Director Trip Cullman does an admirable job using the space and trying to give the vacant material some context. The theater space has been configured into a bar and cabaret style seating surround by more stadium seats. The space allows the actors to get unusually close to the audience, creating an interesting environmental tension. This gives the actors and playing space less boundaries as compared to a standard proscenium. The theater’s reconfiguration is the most interesting part of the experience and immediately sets the tone. Being in such close proximity to the actors offers a great opportunity for creative expression, if only Murder Ballad  lived up to its potential.

Murder Ballad 
Union Square Theatre
100 East 17th Street
Open-ended run

Take the jump for a round-up of other reviews of Murder Ballad along with a video from the show…
Read more…