By Charles Isherwood
Jordan Berman, the hapless but lovable protagonist ofJoshua Harmon’s entirely delightful new play, “Significant Other,” seems to see tiers of tulle, sprays of baby’s breath and ill-fitting bridesmaids’ gowns wherever he looks. While Jordan’s romantic life consists of a crush on a co-worker that carries little promise of fulfillment, his longtime girlfriends are moving into firm relationships leading to walks down the aisle. Mr. Harmon, the author of the scabrous “Bad Jews,” has fulfilled the promise of that play — and then some — with this tenderly unromantic romantic comedy about a gay man aching for love in the 20-something years, when that ache cuts down to the bone. The play, directed with nimble grace by Trip Cullman, is as richly funny as it is ultimately heart-stirring.
Jordan is portrayed with wonderful emotional elasticity by Gideon Glick. He ricochets from scenes of giddy gushing to haunted monologues about his fear of ending up alone, bereft of the companionship of the three friends who mean the most to him.
“I actually think it’s pretty simple: find someone to go through it with,” he says to his closest girlfriend, Laura (a nicely dry Lindsay Mendez). She replies that he makes it sound easy, but Jordan demurs: “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.”
Sprinkled throughout the play are scenes of Jordan visiting his beloved grandmother, played with unsentimental grace by Barbara Barrie. A perceptive and poignant point of connection between Jordan and his grandmother is the unspoken idea that at certain junctures in life, you lose your friends — from marriage, or worse, of course, death.
The heart of the play is Jordan’s floundering attempts to find the right guy, at which he is comically inept. Mr. Glick grounds the comedy in emotional truth. Jordan’s crush may be hopeless — but who among us has not at some time set our sights on a god? “I hate being a person,” Jordan says in one of his lowest moments. “I wish I was a rock, you know? Or anything. A salamander. Dental floss. Rain.”
It’s a funny line, but Mr. Glick invests it with real sadness, a reminder that the burden of wanting love and not having it can make living itself a purgatory. But such is his ebullient charm that we in the audience wouldn’t want Jordan to be anyone, or anything, but himself.
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