SpeakEasy's "Significant Other": 3 Weddings & No Funeral

Greg Maraio & Kathy St. George in "Significant Other"
(photo: Justin Saglio)

In his new comedy,Significant Other, in its New England premiere at SpeakEasy Stage Company, before its (unrelated) Broadway opening next year, Joshua Harmon once again shows his knack for amicably skewering the intense self-absorption of today's youth, especially the subculture of New York City millennials. It's a brisk semisweet concoction about the everyday challenges city singles face in both finding love and in letting go. His targets are, to varying degrees, neurotic, needy and narcissistic. It's to Harmon's credit that he can create such superficially off-putting characters who manage to enrage yet engage us, without losing his driving sense of humor and benign observational skills. While his overview here may not be as incisive as in his previous Bad Jews, it's a very recognizable fable of foibles. Depending on one's vintage, these may be current or distant hook-up points, but we've all more or less been there and done that, if not to such an amusing degree.

The central character, Jordan Berman (Greg Maraio), is a 29 year old, single gay man whose life has revolved for many years around his three BFFs, Kiki (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard), Laura (Jordan Clark) and Vanessa (Kris Sidberry), but anchored by his tender relationship with his aging grandmother, Helene (Kathy St. George). There is much discussion of their interactive friendship and companionship, with not a few hints of their underpinning of loneliness and fear of perpetual isolation, of never finding that titular Mister Right. Along the way, there are three weddings, each a successive loss for our hero (as he puts it, “your wedding is my funeral”), and various encounters with secondary characters played by Eddie Shields (Gideon, Evan and Roger) and Jared Troilo (Will, Conrad and Tony). Harmon synopsizes it best: “in act one...the joy of a loving, close-knit group of friends ...in act two, as that group breaks apart, we feel its loss keenly...as their lives change, the friendship changes”.
Harmon's ear for funny dialogue remains intact, especially as impeccably delivered by Maraio, in lines such as “hearing you say I have obsessive tendencies makes me feel like I need to go to the vet and be put down”, “I want kids so I can discipline them”, and “sweet is code for ugly”. It falls to St. George (in yet another indelible portrait by this mesmerizing actress) to provide the more sobering lines, such as her advice to her grandson: “don't die young, but don't grow old”, and “it's a long book; this is just one tough chapter”. The rest of this cast are equally memorable, especially as each wedding protocol gets wackier and more self-centered (undeniably reflecting today's reality, as one recent real marriage procession, in a church yet, included the family dog in bow-tie and vest; no editorial comment needed).

As Directed by the company's Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault, this is funnier than real life even as it mirrors it. The creative team is perfectly on point, with very versatile Scenic Design by Christopher and Justin Swader, apt Costume Design by Tyler Kinney, and fine Lighting Design by Daniel H. Jentzen and Sound Design by Lee Schuna. It moves smoothly and inevitably to its unsurprising end.

There is no cure, other than time, for our current electoral ills, but this play may help with the treatment of some of the symptoms. In the program notes, Daigneault stresses the need “during such dark and complicated times, to share a laugh and reconnect with one's humanity”. As another (unattributed) quote from the program says about finding that other who's sufficiently significant, “the odds are good but the goods are odd”. Not to worry; as Harmon opines: “Other than marrying the right person, the only thing that's truly essential is a great cake”. Meanwhile, this oft-hilarious bittersweet slice of life will do just fine. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment