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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Roundabout's main subscribers may not identify first-hand with Harmon's foursome of singles who suddenly find themselves at that almost thirty turn in the bumpy road of life. But they have children and grandchildren whose romantic missteps and joys will make them understand and enjoy Mr. Harmon's significantly funny and poignant new play.
Basically this is an old-fashioned romantic comedy, but with new-fangled details and a leading character who's gay. It's also a story about friendship as a form of family in which you try to accept and keep loving each other even as your lives send you on different paths.
The play follows the lives of a quartet of 29-year-olds who have been close friends since college. Three are women, one is a gay man. As in Wendy Wasserstein's Isn't It Romantic (a quote from which is used to introduce Harmon's script), all want to be amazing and keep sharing each others amazing lives. All have jobs — Kiki and Jordan (Sas Goldberg and Gideon Glick) work for a large advertising agency, Vanessa (Carra Paterson) is an editor at a book publishing office, Laura (Lindsay Mendez) is a teacher.
But, it's not their jobs, but the way the actors present their characters that individualizes each. The focus here isn't on their careers but on their romantic lives. The women all manage to pass that critical almost-30 point with their dream of love fulfilled. What's more all decide to celebrate their marriagess with traditional wedding rituals like bachelorette parties and walking down the aisle in white gowns with bridesmaids.
Kiki, being first to the altar is visibly pregnant by the time Laura, with whom Jordan was especially close and compatible, finds her true love. For Jordan, the play's neurotic but likeable central character, this is an always a bridesmaid never a bride story. It's also a virtuoso performance by Glick who's on stage throughout, balancing self-absorption and immaturity with vulnerability and charm.
Jordan does have two romances, both of which go nowhere. The first traces an obsessive infatuation with a hunky co-worker, Will (John Behlmann, differentiating this as well as two other male characters so smoothly that you can hardly tell it's the same actor). There's also a rekindled relationship with Gideon (Luke Smith, another adept triple role player). Watching Jordan try to connect with Will makes us (if not Jordan) see that if he would only be more self-assured and realistically grown-up (like his female friends), he too could indeed find a significant other.
Before we can even hope that Jordan will indeed have his own happy ending, there are the three weddings to exacerbate his growing certainty that he'll never find someone to go through life, and kvetching "I'm twenty-nine years old and no one has ever told me they love me." His mounting despair is heightened by feeling less important to the friends who have been his family which comes to a head with a long and angry rant before Laura's wedding. Like a break out number in a musical, that rant also happens to be a show stopping turn for Glick.
Someone who does love Jordan very much and tells him so is his grandmother Helene Berman (a compellingly low key performance by Barbara Barrie), a smart and meaningful addition to the play. Jordan visits grandma often to deliver her medicines and try to find some answers to his life in her family remembrances. He and grandma are symbolic bookends of two crucial life stages: He's painfully stumbling into a stage of adulthod where he knows what the point of a meaningful life is for him but still doesn't know how to get it. She, on the other hand, did manage to have a full and meaningful life, but knows that she can't have it back. To her Jordan may be a late starter in the happiness game, but she assures him he will get to the next chapter.
If there weren't already a famous movie with a similar name, Harmon might have named this Three Weddings and a Funeral instead of Significant Other. The funeral in this case symbolizes how Jordan views his favorite friend Laura's wedding's effect on their friendship. At any rate, the weddings, and all the events throughout the year during which they take place are staged with great imagination and style by Trip Cullman and his crafts team.
Cullman and set designer Mark Wendland have actualized Harmon's stage direction: "the scenes should bleed into each other The scenes of this play should bleed into each other. Because love bleeds." Thus, we jump from Jordan's office, to his and Laura's apartment, to several interchanges with Vanessa at MOMA, to grandma Berman's apartment and the various wedding-related events without blackouts fussy prop movemets. It's all one scene with the actors movements and costume changes (by Kaye Voyce), and Japhy Weidemann's lighting to keep us clear as to where we are. Choreographer Sam Pinkleton contributes to the fun of the lively big dance at each of the weddings.
quibbles I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Mixed up as he is, it is a stretch to believe that Jordan's only social contacts are those three women and his grandmother. What about his parents? They're alive since they're paying for grandma's cleaning woman. No mention of a fraught relationship with them or any siblings. Given the script's introductory quote from Wendi Wasserstein's Isn't It Romantic, it's a bit odd for all three of these women to consider a white wedding with all the trimmings the epitome of "amazing." But then I also said this was an old-fashioned romantic comedy — and that genre never insisted that everything should make perfect sense.
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Written by Joshua Harmon
Directed by Trip Cullman
Cast: Barbara Barrie (Helene), John Behlmann (Will/Conrad/Tony), Sas Goldberg (Kiki), Gideon Glick (Jordan), Lindsay Mendez (Laura), Carra Patterson (Vanessa) and Luke Smith (Gideon/Evan/Roger)
Sets: Mark Wendland
Lighting: Japhy Weideman
Costumes: Kaye Voyce
Sound: Daniel Kluger
Choreography: Sam Pinkleton
Roundabout at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre 111 West 46th Street 212.719.1300, online at roundabouttheatre.org
From 5/20/15; opening 6/18/15; closing 8/16/15
All tickets are $79.
Tuesday through Saturday evening at 7:30PM with Wednesday
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 6/12 press preview
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