I saw TOOP’s production of “Significant Other” with a friend who had just come from a bad date, which made the familiar story of college pals fumbling through relationships less on the quirky side and more on the familiar. The play, about four friends who love each other but don’t always like each other, was performed in the Drama House this weekend. It begins with the main characters reminiscing about their golden days at a bachelorette party. It could easily dive into a two-hour long soapy serenade about friendship, but it doesn’t. Instead, the actors rise above a sappy story with performances that get more and more real as the play went on.
Directed by junior Jessica Ervin and written by playwright Joshua Harmon, the show centers around Jordan — a sweet, sensitive, compulsive gay man played by senior Benjamin David Frazer — who steadily falls apart as each of his friends get married. Frazer brings authenticity to the role and portrays Jordan’s emotional decline with subtle intensity. Jordan’s relationships with the other characters are fun and true — the bouncy Kiki, played by first-year Elizabeth Tighe, and the passionate Vanessa, played by junior Amanda Gillen — but it’s his friendship with Laura (senior Rosie Flanagan) that takes center stage. Laura is Jordan’s best friend and the last of the girls to marry. We watch them grow apart when she meets Tony (sweet senior Reid Christopher Wilson) and Flanagan softly shows her character’s transformation from a softhearted, nontraditional gal to someone who picks Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” as the song for the first dance at her wedding.
Frazer and Flanagan’s relationship on stage fizzles slowly. As Jordan falls in and out of obsession with various men, we’re introduced to smaller but ever-so-colorful characters, like Jordan’s office crush Will (also played by Wilson) and Vanessa’s professional husband Roger (first-year Kyle Huynh) broken up by scenes with Jordan’s grandmother Helene, played by senior Sam Morton, who’s hilariously touching and makes the collapse of Jordan’s social life feel lighthearted.
A few moments verge on superfluous, like when Helene advises Jordan that he’s just going through a difficult chapter. “You don’t know when it’s going to end, or when the next chapter will begin. But it’s a long book,” Helene tells him. Still, the scene feels real, with Morton watching QVC on one end of the stage and Frazer holding the phone to their ear on the other, the connection familial.
There are scenes that could’ve been overkill. The characters almost fall flat. But the actors bring them to life with simple energy that was totally lifelike. First-years Mekayla Sullivan (set designer) and Kaelyn McFarlane-Connelly (lighting designer) brings an atmosphere that was colorfully spot-on. Musical interludes, including Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” and “Schoop” by Salt-N-Pepa, remind us that we’re just a bunch of twenty-somethings fooling around and figuring it out.
The word “relatable” is always overused when it comes to art, but “Significant Other” merits that label. Worrying that you won’t find love or, if you do find love, wondering if it’s real — these are concerns at the heart of the show that many of us contemplate as we get older. Tighe and Gillen make their characters lovable and original, and Frazer and Flanagan end the play on a sad, but hopeful note. Jordan finally explodes at Laura during her bachelorette party, and, after making amends at her wedding, he accepts his status as “the single one” and his friends move offstage with their husbands. Frazer watches them dance from the stage, the purple spotlight slowly fading.