THE BASICS: SIGNIFICANT OTHER, a comedy (2017 Broadway opening) by Joshua Harmon (who also wrote BAD JEWS recently seen at JRT) presented by Buffalo United Artists, directed by Chris Kelly, runs through April 14, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., plus Sunday April 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the Alleyway Theatre, One Curtain Up Alley (which runs from Pearl to Main Streets just north of Shea’s) (886-9239). Wine and soda pop available. Runtime: 2 hours with one intermission. For mature audiences.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Almost-30 Jordan Berman shares every detail of his love life – or lack thereof in his search for “Mr. Right” – with his three best friends – Laura, Vanessa, and Kiki. They talk, text, IM, email, and listen to his long and tortured voicemails; they are, in the popular vernacular, “there for him.” But, one by one the ladies hook up, pair up, and then marry up until Jordan is the only one of the gang left single. If you liked “Friends” or “Sex and the City” you’ll like this play. Yes, the lead character is gay and his dates are gay, but it’s just about secret crushes and first dates and how long after should you wait to text, or should you call instead? LGBTQ or straight and cisgender, we’ve all been there. And if you like clever, fast-paced productions with very funny physical comedy you should go.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Bravo to Matthew J. DiVita as Jordan, who is on stage almost constantly, with loads of rapid-fire dialog, which he delivers believably, his thoughts mirrored in his eyes and reflected in his body language. Zachary Bellus, Anthony J. Grande, and Peter S. Raimondo also display their acting chops as they play a variety of utility roles, either as dates for Jordan or boyfriends-then-grooms for the ladies.
The three energetic young women are Lissette DeJesús as the dour Vanessa, Maria Droz as the kick-ass Kiki, and Sabrina Kahwaty as the bestest of the three besties whose marriage really creates the dramatic tension. And, through it all, Darleen Pickering Hummert plays Helene Berman, Jordan’s cute but starting to lose it grandmother.
Once again, Chris Kelly has applied his fertile imagination to a good play making it better. I asked him if the script had copious stage directions or just bare dialog. It was the latter. He said that as he reads a play he just starts seeing the scenes in his mind. But he was quick to say that his directing style is very collaborative and so he and the actors created many of the scenes together. And, after the show Darleen Pickering Hummert confirmed that. It was obvious that everyone on stage was having a good time, even Lissette DeJesús, whose character is supposed to be a little on the Eeyore side.
It was obvious that everyone on stage was having a good time, even Lissette DeJesús, whose character is supposed to be a little on the Eeyore side.
The program doesn’t have the usual list of production crew, so I’m not sure who came up with the costumes and make-up and hair, etc. but there is a list of “acknowledgements” that includes Neal Radice, Caitlin Baeumler Coleman, Bruce DeJaiffe, Matthew Crehan Higgins, Jimmy Janowski, Rich and Mary Smyth, and Joyce Stilson.
In the end, this is a play about friendship. This month of March has seen first rate productions in Buffalo and most of the plays have been about what it means to be and what it takes to be a friend, including two children’s plays – CHARLOTTE’S WEB about the sacrifice of a spider for her friend Wilbur to JUNIE B. JONES about how friendship is more important than material possessions, to the Shaw’s visiting MASTER HAROLD AND THE BOYS which has friendship stretched to the snapping point, to THE NIGHT ALIVE about down-and-out Dubliners depending on one another, to THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON, about old high school team-mates going at each other but in the end letting friendship triumph. SIGNIFICANT OTHER is part of this current championship season of excellent theater.
UP NEXT: Buffalo United Artist’s 2018 “Summer Camp” production of SILENCE! THE MUSICAL (The Unauthorized Parody of The Silence of the Lambs). Yes, you read that correctly. It starts July 7, 2018 at Alleyway Theater.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!