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Aisle Say On The Square: Insignificant Other?

Aisle Say On The Square: Insignificant Other?
Barbara Barrie, Gideon Glick

Barbara Barrie, Gideon Glick

Significant Other has been remounted on Broadway. What are the producers thinking? No, all right, maybe I know, maybe they want to give this little comedy, a critical hit in its limited run off-Broadway, two years ago, some Broadway cred to kickstart the stock-and-amateur licensing. Not a bad idea, may indeed be worth the investment. Eminently licensable. But to think of it as a potential mainstream runner, and at today’s Broadway prices…?

Carra Patterson, Gideon Glick, Sas Goldberg

Carra Patterson, Gideon Glick, Sas Goldberg

Let me start again. Taking the play on its own terms, I’m not sure I’m the best critical filter to review Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other because I’m just too many generations past its youthful focus to find it that fresh or that interesting, and again, maaaaayyyybe that keeps me from being entirely fair to it.
John Behlmann, Gideon Glick

John Behlmann, Gideon Glick

The play centers around Jordan (Gideon Glick) a young, single, gay man who seems perfectly nice in every regard, but is nonetheless unable to find romantic love and companionship; so he takes solace in his girlfriend contemporaries (Lindsay Mendez, Sas Goldberg and Rebecca Naomi Jones) and holds in his heartbreak as, one by one, they get married off. His homosexuality is never an issue for his sympathetic grandmother (Barbara Barrie), who believes him to be a lovely boy who will eventually find his mate, and offers what life advice he can; but Jordan finds the comfort in that belief less and less encouraging. And in fact, he is a lovely boy, no dark secrets keeping love at bay, save the luck of the draw and perhaps his own innate feelings of social clumsiness, so he spends the play mostly as a cipher (although one with a clear desire, upon which hangs enough specificity for an actor to feed on and create a central personality), and the play itself episodically marks time until the inevitable moment when Jordan, unable to sustain the social nicety of pretending that as each friend gets married, their relationships will basically stay the same, finally goes off about it, in a manner both horrible and forgivably human.
I think this is the kind of play that certain gifted young playwrights (and Harmon is unequivocally gifted) need to write; exploring the world they know and the people they know from the perspective they know. But there’s a callowness at the core—that’s not bad, it just is what it is—because the perspective is limited to that, and to me—and this observation may be only about me—it feels like a play revealing truths that are only deep if you’re still of that generation and trying to dope things out. (Ironically, a key moment of the play has the friend he goes off on, pointing out that there are moments in life that, despite his disappointments, are not about him. Same malady, different context.) I’m more interested in the young playwright who can transcend his generation and tell me a few things I don’t know and haven’t seen. (I still boggle that Herb Gardner wrote A Thousand Clowns when his was 24.)
Anyway: well directed (Trip Cullman) and well-acted. And don’t let me dissuade you from the ride. Just don’t kid yourself about what’s under the hood.


David Spencer is an award-winning composer-lyricist, lyricist-librettist, author and musical theatre teacher. He has written music and lyrics for the Richard Rodgers Development Award-winning musical The Fabulist, which also contributed to his winning a Kleban lyrics award and several Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation grants. He is also lyricist-librettist for two musicals with composer Alan Menken: Weird Romance (WPA 1992, York 2004) and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which had its sold out, extended world premiere in Montreal in Summer 2015; cast album release soon. He made his professional debut in 1984 with the English Adaptation of La Bohéme at the Public Theatre; and he has since written music and lyrics for Theatreworks/USA’s all-new, award-winning Young Audience versions of The Phantom of the Opera (1996) and Les Misérables (1999) (book and direction for both by Rob Barron). Currently he is writing book, music and lyrics for a musical based on the iconic Russian novel The Golden Calf. Spencer’s published books are the Alien Nation novel Passing Fancy (Pocket, 1994), The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide (Heinemann, 2005, a regularly reprinted industry standard) and the script of Weird Romance (Samuel French, 1993). He is on faculty and teaches at the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and has taught at HB Studio, the Workshop Studio Theater and Goldsmith’s College in London. His primary professional affiliations are BMI, The Dramatists Guild and The International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.

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