SIGNIFICANT OTHER




Through Sunday, Jun. 24
Kennedy Theatre, Raleigh
www.theatreraleigh.com

Over the last fifty years, the marriage rate among American adults has dropped from 72 percent to 50 percent. That’s only one of the reasons Significant Other is probably going to come back to haunt us.

In this crisp, incisive Theatre Raleigh production, Joshua Harmon’s 2017 Broadway dramedy carefully examines how intimacy among a quartet of professionals in their late twenties gradually turns into a zero-sum game as marriage enters the picturemost conspicuously for Jordan (Jesse Gephart), the lone gay man among three women.

Until now, the gang’s sarcastic sophistication has held it together through the purgatory of starter jobs and relationships endemic to young adults in the big city. But as Jordan’s friends get marriedfirst, confident, self-centered Kiki (Meagan Chieppor); then, moody art fiend Vanessa (Shayla LaGrange)he finds his calls increasingly going to voicemail.

That’s a problem, since Jordan is pretty high-maintenance: obsessive, neurotic, and fundamentally insecure, with body issues that keep him from seeking the meaningful romance he’s clearly starving for. On the other hand, he has more than a touch of the poet in him. His sharply lyrical descriptions of a doomed office crush, an emotionally unavailable hunk named Will (Adam Poole), make Jordan a twenty-first-century Sei Shnagon, busily adding irretrievable chapters to a long, gay version of The Pillow Book.

When it takes all three women to keep him from hitting send on an ill-advised mash note after the first date, it’s clear that Jordan needs more friends, not fewer. A little therapy wouldn’t hurt either. But the engagement of his closest friend and former roommate Laura (Emily Bosco) triggers a brutally candid examination of the place a gay best friend ultimately has in the lives of women who no longer need his support.

Gephart and Bosco get the tough love right, matching each other blow for blow when Jordan claims Laura’s wedding “enshrines the officially nonexistent role I’ll play in your life from now on.” Jordan echoes the desperation and raw need of the abandoned Frankie Addams, the young, queer “unjoined person” at the heart of the Star Pocket Theatre’s April production of Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding.

But the decline of marriage suggests that our relationships are in flux. Uniformly strong performances under Julia Murney’s direction etch Jordan’s immediate plight in our memory. But at what point will Significant Other become a period piece? And what conventions of lifelong intimacy, accessible to those of all genders, will take its place?