Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Broadway Diary 1: Significant Other at the Booth Theatre

Richard and I are in New York City for five days taking in the sights and seeing some plays before I have to go back into rehearsal for the remount of my own play. It's a rich spring season of openings in the city, both on Broadway and off. So notwithstanding that we've booked five shows in four days, we still had to make some tough choices in terms of what to see. To that end, we decided to limit ourselves to the bigger houses of Broadway, and to only one revival. And because I also want to get to a bunch of galleries and other activities while in the Big Apple, I will only be offering minor synopses of what we see.

First up was last night's Significant Other, a new play by Joshua Harmon that opened earlier this year following a successful run off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre. It focuses on Jordan Berman (Gideon Glick), a 29-year old gay man in New York whose three best girlfriends from college (Sas Goldberg, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Lindsay Mendez) are all marrying off, sending him into a tailspin of despair about his less than robust "social life," to quote Jordan's grandmother (Barbara Barrie). As written by Harmon, Jordan is a neurotic Jewish romantic who initially pines from afar for his handsome new co-worker, Will (John Behlmann), and then, following a date whose ending goes awry, impulsively declares his feelings in an email his girlfriends have counselled him not to send. Jordan might have come across as a walking cliche, and the play itself as a slight gay romantic comedy, were it not for Glick's amazing lead performance and those moments when Harmon's writing and Trip Cullman's sharp direction reveal the sincerity with which they are pitching Jordan's quest for a soulmate.

Glick, a twitchy, manic bundle of raw energy, is in every scene of the play and his face registers Jordan's see-saw emotions with utter naturalness and often stark pathos. There is a moment, early in the play, when he describes to his best bestie, Laura (an equally terrific Mendez), the entirety of Will's body (spied in his swimming trunks at an office pool party). Not only does Glick convey Jordan's besottedness with a total lack of self-consciousness, but the description itself is some of the best writing about the male body I have heard in a long time. Later, in the climax of the play, when these same two characters come to an angry impasse about Laura's impending marriage to Tony (also played by Behlmann), and Jordan's accompanying feelings of abandonment, Glick and Mendez are likewise able to make the stakes of what at first glance might appear a terribly white bourgeois argument seem real. Which is also to say that the play, which is definitely not aiming to make any major political statement, is a lot more profound than at first it might seem.


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