“Significant Other” a slight comedy about the dangers of living a shallow life
In theater, the new normal are plays that run under two hours. The most preferred is 90-minutes, without an intermission.
If ever a play needed to fit, or come close to that formula, it is “Significant Other” being produced by Creative License at the Cohoes Music Hall. With an intermission, it runs about 2 hours and 15-minutes. For a repetitious play about shallow people, that’s a long time.
However, if it’s a bit too long for contemporary theatergoers, it’s length is almost perfect for a Hallmark television special. The material fits the television channel’s core audience as well. If this were a film, it would be called a chick-flick. It features three marriages, and the accompanying bachelorettes’ parties and females who are individualists, but needy. And, as in the Hallmark shows I’ve seen, the women all have a gay best friend.
In “Significant Other,” it’s the same gay best friend, Jordan, who is actually the central figure in the play. He’s a hapless neurotic who is unable to find a romantic partner of his own. His social life is bonding with Kim, Vanessa and Laura, who have been close friends since college, ten years ago.
As one-by-one the women get married, Jordan’s social life shrinks as does his already shaky self-image. Instead of being the most important man in the lives of his friends, he is now second most important. This image is exacerbated as his failures at dating increase his need to be important to another human being. In other words, Jordan is desperate to be loved.
Ultimately, in what is the same scene played over and over, playwright Joshua Harmon makes some valid points about what true friendship entails. The issue comes to a climax when he and Laura have a battle about the meaning of friendship and loyalty.
It is, arguably, the only moment of substance in the play. Ironically, the reason for the argument is Jordan being excluded from a ritual that neither he nor Laura have ever before taken seriously. This conflict tries to define the difference between friendship and being a friend. It also explains the difference between companionship and commitment.
Indeed, in about 10-minutes it shows what is lacking throughout the work – the need of honesty in any relationship. If there is a point to “Significant Other,” it is that it attempts to show that living a shallow life is not a path to happiness. The sad thing is I don’t think it’s a lesson learned by any of the characters.
Though the material is weak, the performances are strong. Ian LaChance who plays Jordan, almost miraculously makes this decent but dull man into a person about whom you care. He always sees the glass as half-empty and is introspective to the point of neurosis. Yet, like his girlfriends, you wish him happiness. LaChance is one of the area’s better actors. He proves it by making you like a man you would avoid in your own life.
Angelique Powell is charming as Vanessa, a sophisticated woman who can match Jordan’s neurosis a fear at a time. Vivian Wilson-Hwang is a comic delight as the self-absorbed Kiki and Maigg Jupin brings an endearing sincerity to Laura, who, if Jordan were straight, she would probably end up being his wife.
Carol Charniga is a delight as Jordan’s grandmother, who dishes out wise, kindly advice to a tone-deaf Jordan. Playing several men who appear throughout the play are David Quinones Jr. and Romen Mousike.
The almost bare set was clearly designed for function as the play needs numerous locales. However, to compensate for the visual bareness, the female costumes are lovely and many.
Despite the many scenes that repeat themselves, co-directors Casey Polomaine and Aaron Holbritter keep the play flowing. If only they had the legal right to reduce a 150 minute play (with intermission) to 100 minutes, (without an intermission) it would convert a decent effort into a should-see production.
“Significant Other” by Creative License at Cohoes Music Hall through November 21. For ticket information, schedule and COVID protocol call 518-434-0776 or go to cohoesmusichall.org
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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