If Jordan Berman, the desperately lonely protagonist achingly played by Gideon Glick in Significant Other, were my therapy patient I would urge him to book a double session ASAP.
A gay, single New Yorker on the cusp of 30 watching his trio of straight female besties find love and head to the altar, Jordan is so emotionally starved, at one point he puts a sticker from an apple on his face so that “something will touch me and cling to me right now.”
Playwright Joshua Harmon’s follow-up to his smash comedy Bad Jews is a flawed if fiercely funny and relatable look at obsessive yearning and the vicissitudes of the once-impermeable friendship bond after Mr. Right comes along.
Significant Other, which landed on Broadway after a much-heralded 2015 limited run at the Roundabout, is at its most poignant during the interactions between Jordan and his college roomie Laura (Lindsay Mendez). The two start out tenderly creating a pact to have a baby together (using a turkey baster, natch) if both stay single to, in Significant Other’s penultimate scene, erupting into a lacerating fight at her bachelorette party after Jordan accuses Laura of being too busy to take his late night calls. Kiki (Sas Goldberg) – the first to ‘abandon’ Jordan to matrimony, is hysterical but psychologically threadbare: “Sometimes I think it’s enough to watch TV with someone who’s obsessed with you.” Jordan’s narcissism is most glaring when he visits grandma Helene (the still magical Barbara Barrie), who is widowed and in the early stages of dementia. The play of emotions across her face is worth the price of the ticket as her beloved nephew proclaims with no sense of irony, “All my friends are dying.”
Then there is Jordan’s massive crush on the gay Greek God in the advertising agency where he works. Jordan deconstructs gorgeous Will (John Behlmann, who plays multiple roles, including Laura’s fiancé Tony), to his gal pals, shimmering muscle by shimmering muscle.
Eventually the co-workers go on what may or may not be a date to a Franco-Prussian war documentary-Will is into war reading; Jordan, admittedly, isn’t interested in much outside satisfying his amped-up desires.
The scene where Jordan physically struggles to prevent himself from clicking ‘send’ on an email of titanic neediness to his crush is a comic masterpiece, though causing the audience to cringe as if witnessing a car crash from which we just can’t look away. Anyone who has hungered for the unattainable and suffered impulse control issues (make that 99 % of us!) feels Jordan’s pain. Will responds by taking a job in Queens.
And Jordan certainly radiates pain. Glick’s charisma makes the character’s incessant whining simmer with pathos, but also rings my therapist bell. On the surface Jordan seems well adjusted in his sexuality, yet he has never been in a serious relationship. If he were on my couch, I would council Jordan to delve the roots of his inability to feel good about himself without external validation. Was he ignored by his parents? The butt of constant criticism, which resulted in him believing the negative assessments? Not only is neediness a turn-off, it originates from a well of childhood pain that cannot be lanced by a few good dates. I’d introduce Jordan to someone he needs to meet and learn to hang out with – himself. Once he accepts and likes his own company without needing to make late-night calls to be talked off the ledge, he will begin to be capable of forging a mature relationship.
Happily director Trip Cullman keeps the action moving, preventing the characters’ lack of growth from slowing down the entertaining proceedings.
Perhaps the best piece of advice I could give to the anguished protagonist – bereft at Lindsay’s wedding watching all the couples dancing by – is a line uttered uttered by his grandmother. “It’s a long book, Jordan. You’re in a tough chapter…but the book is long.”
Written by: Joshua Harmon
Starring: Gideon Glick, Jordan Behlmann, Sas Goldberg, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Lindsay Mendez, Barbara Berry and Luke Smith
Directed by: Tripp Cullman
Through:April 2 at the Roundabout Theatre Company