Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other” takes a 21st century look at women and gay men as they look for love and partners.
Theatre Raleigh’s production brings out the wit and poignancy of such relationships, while not fully solving a faulty script’s challenges.
In the play, Kiki, Vanessa and Laura have been Jordan’s best friends since college, but now nearing 30, they all feel pressure to find mates. The women finally start having some luck, but Jordan either obsesses over the wrong guys or moves too quickly. As each friend walks down the aisle, he despairingly realizes he’s losing them to new lives. He’ll soon have no one for support except his aging grandmother, who sweetly assures him he’ll find someone while she slips further into dementia.
Harmon knows young urbanites’ romantic concerns and preoccupations. There are sweetly embarrassing moments, hilarious gossip sessions and affecting breakdowns. But a number of scenes revisit plot points and character traits with no development, causing loss of interest. The two-act, two-hour script could easily lose half an hour.
Consummate comedian Jesse Gephart takes on Jordan, going beyond cuddly charm and crazy quips to reveal Jordan’s grave self-doubt and bitter regrets. Gephart keeps the show rolling valiantly but gets stalled by Harmon’s lengthy rants and flat scenes.
Adam Poole matches Gephart’s talent, playing three astutely-varied roles: Jordan’s enigmatic work colleague, Kiki’s crass new husband, and Laura’s head-over-heels new beau. Melvin Gray Jr. also takes on three roles: flamboyant co-worker, sexy ladies’ man and appealing gay-on-the-rebound.
Harmon doesn’t flesh out the women enough. Best is Laura, whom Emily Bosco gives a warm, loving centeredness. Meagan Chieppor’s Kiki is brashly self-absorbed, and Shayla LaGrange’s Vanessa is amusingly deadpan. These three don’t always enunciate clearly, but Barbara Kingsley as the grandmother gives a masterclass in projection.
Julia Murney’s direction elicits laughs and a few tears but is hobbled by Harmon’s uneven writing and Chris Bernier’s cramped set comprising six locations, three on a narrow upper level.
Jennie Mann Becker’s lighting helps define those locations nicely, while Emily Johns’ costumes are fashionable or funny as required.
The bottom line
The younger you are, the more you will likely relate but, despite the noted flaws, the play should ring bells with anyone who’s negotiated love’s minefields.
What: “Significant Other,” presented by Theatre Raleigh
Where: Kennedy Theatre, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St. Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. June 14-16, 20-23; 2 p.m. June 16, 23; 3 p.m. June 17, 24
Info: 919-832-9997 or theatreraleigh.com