Joshua Harmon Toys with Marriage & Materialism
by Jordan Freed & Barry David Horwitz
Gawky, self-conscious Jordan Berman (Kyle Cameron), a gay ad copywriter, is trapped by his own neurosis. Jordan and his three dearest gal friends are drinking and carousing at the first of three bachelorette parties. His three wild gal pals will all be married by the end of this show, but Jordan is not so lucky. His awkward, self-defeating attitude keeps him from finding Mr. Right.
Jordan’s wise grandma (lively Joy Carlin) rides on a comical sliding living room. Grandma offers Jordan sage advice—which he predictably rejects and ignores. Playwright Joshua Harmon cleverly captures Jordan’s knee-jerk refusal to mature.
Scenic Designer Jacquelyn Scott decorates the enormous proscenium arch with huge red, white, yellow, and gold flowers, like the borders of a massive Hallmark card. The flowers remind us of a tacky wedding centerpiece, full of gaudy color. Scott’s set ridicules the excessive consumer culture that dominates modern weddings.
Magnificent marble walls loom over the actors, dwarfing the isolated humans. In a cold, marble museum gallery, these flashy New Yorkers look tiny and lost.
Jordan selfishly turns his girlfriends’ pink-themed bachelorette parties into pity parties for himself. At Kiki’s (animated Hayley Lovgren) drunken party, Jordan and his BFF Laura (dynamic Ruibo Qian) fantasize about marriage and children—without sex, of course. Their fantasies barely conceal Jordan’s loneliness.
Although the girls eventually find husbands, Jordan refuses to grow up.
At work, aloof history-buff Will (ethereal August Browning) catches Jordan’s eye, sending him into a predictable tail-spin. Browning brings a mysterious energy to the elusive Will, who inexplicably disappears from the story. Luckily, Browning also plays Conrad and Tony, two other boyfriends, excellently, as well.
Here’s a rom-com that investigates Jordan’s psyche. He’s one frustrated New Yorker who would ordinarily be the sassy gay sidekick; but Harmon puts him center stage, exposing Jordan’s self-indulgent rants and raves.
The playwright includes a stereotypical gay co-worker, Gideon (versatile Greg Ayers), who flamboyantly offers sassy comments and casual sex. Gideon embodies a cliché gay guy—hardly a role-model for the conflicted Jordan.
Later, at Laura’s wedding, Jordan throws a tantrum when she refuses to make him a bridesmaid. In retaliation, Jordan’s dark and selfish feelings erupt in an epic rant, tearing up the stage with vicious accusations. We realize the depths of Jordan’s self-delusion. It’s the high point, a show-stopper!
Jordan says: “Your wedding is my funeral.”
Laura enlightens him: “Fuck you! It’s not about you! You really test the limits!”
Like Seinfeld’s George Costanza, Jordan never overcomes his self-hatred. He dwells in the land of self-pity, ignoring small moments of joy. At Laura’s wedding, he watches her dancing with her new husband, feeling completely alone. His last BFF is gone. We wonder if he will ever wake up from his delusion.
“Significant Other” examines the multiple ways that Jordan rejects his friends’ help. The play warns us against self-martyrdom—even when it’s hilariously funny.
Photos by Jessica Palopoli
“Significant Other” by Joshua Harmon, directed by Lauren English, scenic design by Jacquelyn Scott, at San Francisco Playhouse, through Saturday, June 15, 2019. Info: sfplayhouse.org
Cast: Kyle Cameron, Ruibo Qian, Nicole-Azalee Danielle, Hayley Lovgren, August Browning, Greg Ayers, and Joy Carlin.