A good show can you make you laugh, make you cry, or make you think. This weekend I saw a play that did all three – and managed to reach me exactly where I am at this point in my life right now.
I’d read about “Significant Other”, a play put on at the Laura Pels Theatre by the Roundabout Theatre Company, on the RTC’s website. Because of my Hiptix Gold membership* I’ve seen almost every show the RTC has done this season from $25 floor seats, and “Significant Other” sounded like something I’d enjoy. The sound-bite:
“Jordan Berman [Gideon Glick] would love to be in love, but that’s easier said than done. So until he meets Mr. Right, he wards off lonely nights with his trio of close-knit girlfriends. But as singles’ nights turn into bachelorette parties, Jordan finds that supporting the ones you love can be just as impossible as finding love itself. […] Significant Other is a hilarious and heart-wrenching new play that takes us into the trenches of single life in the city, reminding us that you can’t hurry love—no matter how much you wish you could.”
The show is set in NYC, and I read that description and thought, “Oh hey, that sounds like my life, I should go see that.” And when my (recently engaged) friend came to town this weekend, we went.
I don’t know if “Significant Other” is an amazing play, and I don’t know if it will stand the test of time, but for me, it was a great experience. From a comment my friend overheard on the way out, some older theatergoers may have found it to be a product of the time we’re living in, where texts and emails and Facebook stalking can hurry a romance along or blow it up entirely. Social media and technology played a part in the show, for sure, but it was seamless for me – or maybe it’s just that it’s seamless in my life and so I didn’t notice. Either way, I enjoyed the play from start to finish and thought both the writing and acting were spot on.
The first half of the show had me laughing out loud. “Significant Other” starts at a bachelorette party for one of Jordan’s female best friends, and while Jordan’s looking in vain for someone to love and be loved by, his friends have better luck. It sucks, but it’s also funny. I get it, Jordan! We’ve all spent too much time agonizing over what to say in a text or what that Facebook message means. Okay, theatergoers who got married before email, maybe not you, but surely there must have been analogous agony in your dating history? And when Jordan and his friends did an interpretative dance to “I Hope You Dance”, I wanted to join in. I’m pretty sure when I go to a wedding with childhood friends later this summer, we will dance exactly like that.
But as Jordan’s friends pair off and he stays single, and his frustration grows, the laughter started to fade away for me. When his grandmother (played beautifully by Barbara Barrie), who he visits throughout the show, asks him, “How’s your social life?” he deflects, until he can’t anymore and starts to break down. We watch Jordan’s friends’ lives move on without him, we watch his loneliness grow and his relationships shift, and it’s painful – and realistic. When the crisis comes and Jordan’s best friend, Laura, reminds him that her wedding is about her, not about him, the unspoken question for Jordan is, when will his turn come?
The heart of the show, for me, is crystallized in a conversation between Jordan and Laura. “I know life is supposed to be this great mystery,” Jordan says. “But I actually think it’s pretty simple: find someone to go through it with. That’s it.” When Laura protests that he makes it sound so easy, Jordan says, “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.” That feeling is a fairly universal one, and when paired with the loneliness that pushes Jordan to say, “It feels like all my friends are dying,” it’s no wonder that my eyes were, um, not dry at the end of the show. Jordan’s aching need for love was hard to watch, but harder still was seeing him left behind without the friends he’s always relied on.
There were other twenty-something with wet cheeks who clearly felt like I did, but other audience members didn’t look as affected. So maybe the fact that I’m a single twenty-something in NYC who’s attending four weddings this year and has three best friends getting married next year has something to do with the impact “Significant Other” had on me. My friend is about to cross the line “Significant Other” draws between single and married friends, and she found it just as compelling as I did. I don’t think I could sit through the play again now – it was draining, by the end – but I’d like to see it again in, oh, five years, and see if it still hits me in the same way or if its poignancy is so closely tied to this point in my life.
If you’re a twenty-something in NYC, I suggest you check out “Significant Other”. And if you’re not a twenty-something, go see it anyway and tell me what you think! Just resist the urge to dance in your seat, and bring some tissues!
“Significant Other” runs through August 16, 2015 at the Laura Pels Theatre. For ticket information, check out the Roundabout Theatre Company website.
*HipTix is a free program where theatergoers ages 18-35 can get two $25 balcony seats to any Roundabout Theatre Company Production. HipTix members can, for $75 a year, upgrade to HipTix Gold, which offers two $25 floor seats to each show, with a better selection of performance dates.