I love Josh Harmon. Honestly, who doesn’t? You can bet I like to defy the status quo of popular theatre, but even I am a (huge) fan of Bad Jews, the most produced play in America until its contemporary rival Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar stole its place (recently tipped off the throne by Lee Hall’s Shakespeare in Love). The kid can write. He has a true knack for capturing the contemporary language of my generation and placing it into a context the blue hairs can understand. Everyone has a good time, everybody laughs, a few people cry, and you leave thinking. He challenges our traditional views. The mark of a true American playwright.
I visited the Geffen's production of Significant Other with Chelsie, an actor friend of mine preparing for her summer ahead at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (what could be more magical?!). She was unfamiliar with Harmon’s work but intrigued by my passionate description of Bad Jews. Man oh man I am a sucker for Daphna and would love to play that role someday, hopefully soon. And seriously, if you live under a rock and have not seen it yet, run to go see it at the Odyssey Theatre on the west side April 21-June 17.
JORDAN: Your wedding is my funeral.
Anyway, back to Significant Other. As usual, the Geffen delivers a high production quality, pull-out-all-stops piece grounded in timely cultural realities. And Harmon's rapid-fire, truthful storytelling is back for the win. Chelsie and I had tons of fun. We laughed really hard and we related to a multitude of struggles facing the pressures of marriage, the tolls these committed relationships take on life-long pre-existing friendships and the overall insanity/pressures of the wedding industry.
But leave it to LA Theatre Nerd to return to the text in an attempt to try and understand the moments that seem to distract from the rest of the show. At the beginning of this script, Harmon notes that The scenes of this play should bleed into each other. Because love bleeds. Ugh.
This was not exactly the case as far as scene-to-scene transitions in this production. The flashy, automated set can’t seem to keep up with this loveflow. I think this play might be better suited for their smaller Audrey Skirball space, or possibly an even smaller black box. However the luxurious set design was only a small distraction. Because the text keeps you in.
JORDAN: She's my friend. Maybe no one would ever be good enough.
This (quote above) is something I have definitely thought in reference to my sister and some of my closest friends. I get it Jordie.
As an artist, my greatest takeaway from this performance was the 110% committed work of Will Von Vogt in the role of Jordan Berman. Wowwwwwwwwww. He. Is. In. It. To. Win. It. What a committed performance that every audience member can relate to on some level. No matter what your age or sexuality. Such honesty. Such truthful humor. Definitely sending Ovation-status vibes to this bright young actor : )
There was a little more to be desired textually from the female characters, however in a way I appreciated Jordan's perspective/viewpoint of his hetero-female newlywed soul-sisters. Their situations are real, yet often the butt of the jokes in this millennial dilemma. On the other hand I liked that each of the woman represented something different in Jordan's life, and their friend-love for him was completely evident. Personally, I felt a bit removed from the play on a socio-economic level, but I appreciated the glimpse into this world, because it is a real world. Destination weddings are a thing. Spending thousands of dollars just to support a friend at their wedding is a thing. Scary to think that this world could be just around the bend for me, timeline-wise.
JORDAN: When everyone that you're young with grows up, you feel old.
For a hearty taste of Harmon, check out Significant Other on the Geffen's main stage now through May 6th. If you like what you see and want a taste of the OG, DEFINITELY check out Bad Jews at the Odyssey. I'm looking forward to seeing Noah James work his magic in that one; great casting!