Uproarious Social Commentary and a Few Tears at San Diego's Diversionary Theatre

Abigail Padgett Reviews - Theater
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The gay male buddy character is by now a trope, but playwright Joshua Harmon turns it inside out with three straight girl-buddies circling endearingly neurotic and comfortably gay Jordan Berman (Tom Zohar).  The four New Yorkers have been best friends since college, a hip chosen family providing warmth and support as they stumble toward adulthood.  But their bond can’t last forever, and 29-year-old Jordan is bereft as one-by-one his BFFs vanish into weddings like the one he longs for.  Except he doesn’t even have a boyfriend.

 

Under Anthony Melvin’s skillful direction, the rather lengthy (two hours) comedy-that-suddenly-brings-tears doesn’t miss a step, keeping the audience deeply engaged with the story while Tom Zohar’s epic talent keeps them engaged with Jordan.

 

The first to wed is Kiki, played by Jamie Criss who hits it out of the park in her Diversionary debut as the bossy, opinionated, and hilariously apt voice of the know-it-all-millennial.  As the young women agonize over bridesmaids’ dresses, Jordan in a (very) long soliloquy describes his current crush at the office, Will (Bryan Banville).  As is millennial-appropriate, there’s much rapid-fire business with social media throughout the play, and the three friends critique Jordan’s first text messages trying to invite Will on a date.

Miraculously, war-buff Will agrees to see a documentary on the Franco-Prussian War with Jordan, and the date isn’t a total disaster.  Jordan obsessively gets a pair of size-12 green sneakers because Will was wearing them at an office pool party, and Jordan dreams of waking up to see those sneakers parked beside his bed.  But Will is transferred to another office, leaving Jordan with empty green shoes and a growing sense of panic exacerbated by the sudden engagement of Vanessa (Andréa Agosto), a savvy book editor with the sexual enthusiasm of Mae West and a hearty disdain for romanticism.

As the friends do yet another round of showers, bachelorette parties, and wedding prep, Jordan and his best-of-the best friend, Laura (Megan Carmitchel), share a tender moment.  What if neither finds love and never joins the cavalcade toward the altar?  In only half-jest they agree to stay together, marry, and have children.  When Laura edgily asks how they’ll accomplish that, Jordan brandishes a straw.  “Turkey baster!”

As his friends peel away into domesticity, Jordan regularly visits his widowed grandmother, Helene (Dagmar Krause Fields), who alone among the characters seems flat, a fleshless stereotype of age forever looking at old photographs she increasingly cannot remember.  When the final blow falls and Jordan learns that Laura, too, is about to marry, he asks Helene for advice.  Her bleak answer that “the story is very long,” meaning life, supposedly helps Jordan accept his current, lonely state but really seems to suggest another theme, perhaps another play, altogether.

A searing confrontation between Jordan and Laura after she chooses an obscure cousin over him as bridesmaid is movingly done by Zohar, naming every burdensome expense and pointless hassle imposed on guests at trendy destination weddings as well as his sense of rejection at not having been chosen to stand with her as bridesmaid.  And there is no rapprochement.  The bond between these significant others is, if not broken, altered beyond recognition.

In the final scene, Jordan watches the wedding dance once joyously shared with his friends, alone.

Significant Other’s message, while delivered as comedy, is serious, reflecting the still-queasy framework of a social order changing at warp speed.  Kiki, Vanessa, and Laura are hip, savvy, and completely in control of their sexuality and reality, but opt for traditional, old-fashioned marriage.  Jordan, in a world that suddenly permits gay marriage, cannot find anyone who will say, “I love you.”

Members of the audience who saw the Broadway production of  Significant Other agreed that the intimate Diversionary setting provided a more immediate and personal experience of the play, enhanced by Scenic Director Justin Humphres’ interesting bookcase set, Lighting Designer Joel Britt’s subtle lighting effects and especially Sound Designer Melanie Chen Cole’s expert fun with music so familiar there were surreptitious audience solos!

Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA 92116  Phone: (619) 220-0097  Showtimes through June 23 – Thursdays: 87:00 p.m., Fridays/Saturdays: 8:00 p.m., Sundays: 2:00 p.m.  Tickets: $15-$50 (discounts available)  Website: diversionary.org