Many people can find themselves having a moment where they are sitting on the floor, calling a best friend to tell them about a hot date they went on and generously sharing all the risque details. Those moments of bonding are among the most pleasant and intimate. Then one day, the friend does not pick up the phone. The line responds with haunting beeps. There are no options but to leave a voice message. These are the moments when the world is slowly falling apart.
In his Broadway debut, young playwright Joshua Harmon poignantly explores many themes in his new play Significant Other. Harmon is an alumnus of Roundabout Theatre Company’s New Play Initiative, which godfathered another playwright prodigy, Stephen Karam. Karam is the author of a 2016 Best Play winner The Humans.
Almost two years after Significant Other’s highly successful Off-Broadway run at RTC, Harmon’s dedication to modern friendships lands on the Great White Way with a grand triumph.
Jordan Berman, played by Gideon Glick, lives in a big city. His friends Kiki, played by Sas Goldberg, Vanessa, played by Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Laura, played by Lindsay Mendez, are his life. All three actresses bring blunt realism to their portrayal of young women on their journey to becoming wives. They are all joyous and relatable.
When Berman’s friends start finding their significant others and eventually get married, he feels abandoned. He is trying to be happy for them, but all in vain. His usually contagious positivity gets infected by sadness—a ruthless illness that eventually gets the best of him. He goes on many dates with various men, but nothing ever works out.
While his friends share their sheets with their partners, Berman goes to bed with his misery. He cries himself to sleep while desperately trying to figure out every little thing that is wrong with him.
Berman keeps asking himself if he will ever find a guy to spend the rest of his life with. Though he adores his friends, the person he feels most connected to is his beloved grandma Helene, played by Barbara Barrie. Living alone in her apartment while experiencing early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Helene reminds her grandson that although life can be lonely, there is always somebody there for you.
Glick is a new shining star. He is absolutely brilliant in the role that he was born to play. He portrays pain so realistically that it transmits into the heart of every audience member, opening scars of past troubles. His portrayal of Berman is a spectrum of feelings ranging from obsession to apathy, from desperation to glee.
The one thing that this play does masterfully is it shows how one feels after they shut the door of a lonely apartment. It is important to see on stage that the emotions one may feel are universal.
Harmon’s play is the first true show about millennials on Broadway. Its language, themes, dialogues and jokes are all representative of the generation that formed in the world of social media and broken communication.
Despite the sentimental themes, this play is a comedy and the jokes are absolutely hysterical. Harmon’s comedic lines are so realistic that the laughs escape the viewers’ bodies almost unconsciously. Audiences cannot help but conspicuously look at one another or mumble “that is so me” every once in a while.
The humor is the essence of this play. Even the most dramatic dialogues are full of sarcastic comments, emblematic of the generation that uses memes to deal with the realities of today’s world.
Significant Other breathes with a lot of youth. The show opens with the characters jamming to Rihanna at a bachelorette party. To enrich the fresh feelings of the play, director Trip Cullam draws inspiration from the things we dedicate most of our time to—social media.
The set is constructed in square-like shapes that look like app icons and the lights are inspired by Instagram filters. Life is depicted in this play in a realm that Broadway has not seen in a very long time.
Significant Other features no usual theatrical drama. There are no destructive family issues, terminal illnesses or abuse. There is just the everyday, almost routine like, battle with destiny for one’s happiness in life. The characters think that being happy means being loved or being with someone.
We are not defined by relationship status, but rather by connections with people. So instead of chasing a person to have a wedding with, the Bermans of this world should capture their youth with as many happy and sincere memories as possible. We are only young once and if destined to be, our significant other will eventually come as well.