The Insignificance of 'Significant Other'


I, too, am appalled by the business of marriage in America. Or, more accurately, by the wedding industry, which fetishizes and commercializes a private ceremony at absurd expense. I cringe at what couples make their closest friends and family pay for: clothes, gifts, multiple pre-parties, not to mention travel and accommodations for the big day. Imagine if everyone was truly a guest at this event: perhaps it would be a bit more modest, a bit more personal, and we wouldn’t freak out about it quite so much.

“Significant Other,” the play that closed this Sunday at the Roundabout Theater, essentially makes this point, which is not a new one. The (supposed) twist is that the protester is a young gay man, Jordan Berman, who watches each of his three girlfriends get successively married off, leaving him scared and alone and without a boyfriend. He’s 29.

In the summer of gay marriage, when the United States has miraculously crossed the finish line in a shockingly quick sprint to marriage equality, this is all Joshua Harmon, the playwright, has to say? (Unfortunately, I didn’t see his previous play “Bad Jews,” which I heard was sharp and wonderful.)

Now with the privilege and responsibility of marriage at our disposal, have gays and lesbians merely been welcomed into a club of anxiety should we fail to be partnered up by the end of our 20s? Has our struggle to achieve this right given us no more insight or perspective?

At one point in the play, Jordan whines that he feels as if all of his friends are dying. It gets a big laugh because he says it to his grandmother, who responds, “All of my friends really are dying” (or something to that effect). At intermission, a middle-aged gay man in front of me took issue with the joke, telling his friend, “When I was that age, all of my friends really were dying.”

Whether or not Harmon was aware of the layers of that line, his character and his play have no sense of historical context, which gives it a certain tone-deafness that Jordan epitomizes.

“Significant Other” is funny, well written, well acted and, unfortunately, not very significant.