It feels like just about every other show I see nowadays is in a theatre I’ve never been to before. Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s production of Significant Other was staged at The Highland Park Community Center. Not a large theatre and like many of these smaller venues it means there isn’t a bad seat in the house. As for the show itself, I remarked to my companion that it’s not often, even at a good comedy that you find yourself laughing out loud at a play. Well, this was one of those times when I laughed out loud many times. This is a wonderful comedy performed by a talented cast. Filled with moments that ring true because the humor comes from character as much as from jokes. The cast finds something in each character to give us a glimpse of real people, it’s funny because it’s true, applies in this case.
Joshua Harmon’s script reminded my companion of Sex and the City. To me it brought to mind Bridget Jones’s Diary if the focus was on Bridget’s gay male friend Tom, instead of Bridget herself. Jordan played by Bradley Hildebrandt is a gay man in New York City who’s circle of girlfriends are hooking up and getting married one by one. Jordan longs for a man of his own, but in very amusing ways he is his own worst enemy. Hildebrandt plays Jordan as a ramped up version of all of our insecurities. Again, his struggles are funny because we recognize them as the same ones we’ve all had at times. He gets the most out of the scripts humor heightening things a bit but never going to far or becoming a caricature. When the play takes a serious turn he is equally up to the task. The play moves fast, switching at times from one time to another mid scene. There are instances of Jordan relaying what happened and as he does so we see it in flashback. Harmon’s script isn’t afraid to draw attention to itself and it works beautifully moving as it does from the present to the past and from reality to fantasy.
The ensemble is tight, particularly Chloe Armao, Audrey Park, and Olivia Wilusz, who play Jordans circle of girlfriends. Each creates a distinct and unique character all are given their moment to shine and make the most of it. Wilusz’s Kiki is every loud coworker, drunk girl at a bachelorette party you’ve ever seen or known. Park’s Vanessa, is the ironic friend who is the voice of reason when the others might get swept away by some romantic notion. Armao’s Laura, is Jordan’s best friend, the buttoned down, and quiet one. When she finds happiness it’s the hardest loss for Jordan to accept. They have a scene at the end that switches gears on the entire play rather abruptly. It’s here where Jordan loses the audience a bit. Up until this point we can identify with his quirks and emotional outbursts, but at the end he goes a little too far perhaps, and we start to think he needs to grow up a little and be a bigger person. Two other actors each play three different roles each and find a way to make them all distinct. Paul LaNave, who is Will, one of the objects of Jordan’s affections is channeling Ryan Reynolds, but when he plays the other two characters, the resemblance is gone. Tony Larkin has a great time with an over the top coworker character Evan, then gets to dial it back to play his other two roles.
Hayley Finn’s direction is spot on, she has the characters move in and out of moments in creative ways. Stage managing one of LeNave’s characters changes in the flash of an eye. The Scenic Design by Michael Hoover is simple and clearly on a budget, but very ingeniously designed. With coffee pot that appears and disappears in the blink of an eye, panels and sections that turn and pull out to instantly suggest a new location, without requiring a lengthy scene change. The one lighting by Todd M. Reemtsma however seemed off. I don’t know if the facilities were lacking and that was an issue, but it was not a good looking show in that respect. But that was a minor distraction.
Significant Other plays through March 8th. For more information and to purchase tickets go to http://mnjewishtheatre.org/.
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