As a reviewer, I try to be as dispassionate and analytical as possible in my critique of most works of theater. That’s why, when a particular production speaks to me on a wholly personal, intimate level that might not precisely translate to other audience members, I feel the need to explain why.
Jarrott Productions’ newest show, Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other,” is just such a production. The play is a comedy/drama hybrid that follows the lives of four college friends in their late 20s as they negotiate the slippery terrain between their friendship-focused young adulthood and the more family-focused lifestyle of oncoming middle age. At the center of all this is Jordan Berman, a gay man who watches his three closest friends (all female) couple off while he remains single and increasingly alone with his own neurotic, self-destructive thoughts.
As somebody who only recently negotiated the type of life transition explored by this play, Jordan’s trials and tribulations spoke to me with a great deal of cutting, uncomfortable truth. What’s more, his story reminded me far too much of that of a dear friend of mine whose own journey through those years ended in tragedy.
I was emotionally wrecked by “Significant Other” and had one of those transformative evenings at the theater that cut through to the core of my being. I don’t know, however, whether the experience of most audience members will be the same (though, judging by the other people sobbing after the curtain fell, I was likely not the only one so moved).
In many ways, this production is stronger than the sum of its parts. A sharp, witty script, kinetic direction and design, and several very moving performances combine to make an extremely solid production that — if the source matter speaks to you — has the ability to transcend into a truly personal piece of art.
Much of what creates this transcendent potential is the warm, nuanced, complex performance by Will Douglas as Jordan. Douglas truly captures the feeling of being a lonely, compulsive neurotic whose own miseries are only multiplied by the happiness of those he loves most. He makes Jordan’s anxiety and despair palpable in remarkably subtle ways, particularly when paired with Susan Myburgh as his best friend, Laura. David R. Jarrott’s directorial flourishes wisely focus on transitioning from scene to scene (the text fluidly moves between locations) while showing faith in his actors to carry the momentum within each individual scene through the strength of their performances.
“Significant Other” will be an entertaining, engaging, moving production for most audience members; for some, it will be the kind of wrenchingly emotional experience we crave from the theater. The final image, a spotlight on Douglas’ face as he struggles with a variety of deep, conflicting emotions, somehow landing simultaneously on hope and despair, will haunt me for quite some time to come.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 30
Where: Trinity Street Playhouse, 901 Trinity St.