And there is a but. Let’s start with playwright Joshua Harmon’s principal premise and it’s fundamental questions: the importance of finding a significant other. And just how significant is, or should, this “other” be in your life, and are you defined by this “other”?
According to grandma Helene (Michéle Maxwell’s character) it is “the most important thing in your life” to find a partner to share your life with, albeit that she, as a widow, is constantly exploring theoretical ways of committing suicide. Already, some might vehemently oppose that perspective on life, and as the play unfolds, one realises that viewpoints on that supposition become even more disparate.
The plot: late 20-something gay man regardless of his ferocious quests and unrequited, ruthless pursuits of that elusive thing called love, it just doesn’t come a-knocking on his door. But, it seems to be knocking, sometimes even breaking down the doors of those around him, like his three best friends – all female heterosexuals who are finding their Mr Rights at alarming rates – with engagements, bachelorette parties, wedding showers and of course actual weddings in abundance. Throw in a 70-odd year old grandma, and voila – ‘Three Weddings and a Funeral’ (sic) meets ‘Sex in the City’. But is there indeed a funeral? That would be a spoiler alert, save to say that this protagonist does not walk hand–in-hand into the sunset with his partner, as do his heterosexual equivalents.
Here’s the thing: if we still believe that love and marriage go together like the proverbial horse and carriage and it makes “one man weep and another sing” or “drowns the tender reed” then it is a dangerous statement to cut the lonely gay hero character standing by his solitary self while the others literally dance to a different, happier tune, replete with a significant other in tow. And as one explores the concept of “being the other” or being different, it feels as though however many strides we may have made, the “other” will ultimately remain exactly that – and significantly so.
That said, one’s response to Jordan as the lead character could go one of two ways, remembering of course that he is gay, Jewish and lives in New York City – the words are plentiful and exhausting. You either want to get onto the stage and hug him, saying: “This too shall pass, until then, fetch wood, carry water and walk the earth”, or you would want to hit him squarely in the face, shouting: “come right, what the hell is wrong with you?” And, if you can deliver the lines with a Jewish Upper West Side accent (for which you might have to take a lesson or three from the delightful Robyn Scott) it might be even more judicious. The play is not without its funny vignettes, its sometimes memorable lines nor without its few pearls of wisdom but ultimately it is the set design by Wolf Britz, the direction by Greg Karvellas and the well cast company with consistent, believable American accents (as coached by the delightful Robyn Scott) that make this a worthwhile sojourn.
After watching the play I had to dig deep to stay impartial between my 50-something wisdom and my 20-something angst, my 50-something ordinariness and my 20-something imprudence and between my 50-something disparagement and my 20-something idealism. If wearying neurosis is what resonates and tickles your funny bone then ‘Significant Other’ should definitely not be missed. If you are a boring 50-something sap like I am, well, I guess you have seen these characters before in many guises – in films like ‘Bridesmaids’ and most (if not all) Jennifer Aniston rom-coms. ‘Significant Other’ is by no means a ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ and I am sure it does not profess to be but as similar themed work I would imagine a cross reference is not entirely inapposite?
PRODUCTION: Significant Other
DIRECTOR: Greg Karvellas
CAST: Gabriel Meltz, Dominique Maher, Leseko Seabe, Lucy Tops, Michéle Maxwell, Roberto Kyle and Ryan de Villiers
VENUE: The Fugard Theatre until July 7
REVIEWER: Rafiek Mammon
* Tickets from R140 to R250 can be booked through the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554, or at www.thefugard.com.