New Theatre is on a hot streak of quality presentations this year. Significant Other continues the trend.
Written by Joshua Harmon – his follow up to his career-making Bad Jews – Significant Other is a bittersweet comedy exploring that phase of life when the close-knit friendships of college or the workplace begin to drift apart as people partner up, adopt more sedate social lives and start families.
Jordan (played here by Tom Rodgers, and quite brilliantly) finds himself in the thick of it, though as a bystander.
Pushing 30, his romantic life is on hold. The object of affection, office newbie Will, is oblivious to his worshipful admiration. Worse still, his closest gal pals – Kiki, Laura and Vanessa – are serially falling to proposals of marriage.
At best, Joshua feels like an outlier. At worst, he’s suicidal. There are only so many bachelorette parties you can show up for, only so many wedding night karaoke power ballads you can sing.
The story is established with salvos of tart observation and whip-smart repartee. Harmon wins you over very quickly. Soon though, the play’s serious side emerges and Significant Other glides away from sassy sitcom and toward piercing observation of the fleeting nature of friendship and the tailspinning effect of loneliness and the loss of hope.
In one of the darker scenes, Jordan attempts to reach out to his besties by phone, only to leave rambling messages on their voicemails. In another, Laura’s husband-to-be – the unfailingly nice Tony – makes it clear (in the nicest possible way) that Jordan is yesterday’s hero: “Thank you for taking such good care of her all these years. She’s in good hands.” Ouch.
Significant Others generates a lot of laughs but several in the audience were smiling through tears at the end.
Hayden Tonazzi directs a great-looking, sharply paced production (his New Theatre debut) staged on an arresting set of paper panels in wooden frames designed by Hamish Elliot and deeply lit by Morgan Moroney, who imparted a similarly vivid look to the New’s 2019 queer comedy This Bitter Earth). Costume designer Kate Beere has a cruel eye for wedding fashions.
Dominique Purdue (Vanessa), Isabella Williams (Kiki) and Laura McInnes (Laura) sparkle as the gal pals. Williams is very adept at playing Kiki’s particular brand of self-absorption. McInnes shines in a poignantly angry scene in which a despairing Jordan rails against her out-of-town wedding plans.
Matthew McDonald provides nuanced support in several roles, ranging from swishy office colleague to the enigmatic hunk Will. Helen Tonkin brings subtlety and warmth to the role of Helene, Jordan’s grandmother.
Rodgers, who played a small but energising role in the recent production of John Donnelly’s The Pass at the Seymour Centre, is a newcomer but he occupies centre stage exceptionally well, deftly carrying the play’s comic, tragic and musical loads. He’s one to watch.