Significant Other

by TK Hadman

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday May 25, 2016

Lee Osorio, Diany Rodriguez
Lee Osorio, Diany Rodriguez  

Actor's Express closes its 28th season with the romantic comedy, "Significant Other." It's a wildly entertaining romp that explores the often-familiar tension between platonic and romantic partnerships.

Lee Osorio plays Jordan, a somewhat neurotic gay man living in New York, watching his circle of gal pals get married, and feeling increasingly anxious about finding a suitable partner. Over time, his friends offer him less emotional support and he begins to open up to his grandmother, the only other meaningful person in his life.

Self-loathing Jordan desperately navigates his romantic prospects and leans heavily on his friends. Kiki, played by Cara Mantella, unabashedly (drunkenly) explains how falling in love with herself was the key to finding a husband. Disguised in parody, this message serves as a stark contrast to Jordan's negative self-image.

Compounded with frustration, loneliness, and low self-esteem, he confronts familiar feelings among people who date: Does this person like me? Is this a date? More specifically to queer people: Is this person even attracted to people like me?

Friends gradually leave Jordan out of conversations about their future, as it turns into weddings and having children, despite Jordan expressing his desires for the same. It isn't malicious, so much as oblivious. In those moments, Jordan is made into another type of significant other: an outsider, fundamentally different but interested in the same things as his friends.

Even Jordan's closest friend, Laura, played by Diany Rodriguez, shifts her priorities once she starts seeing someone new. The two used to commiserate on being the last single ones, but without her Jordan feels displaced and eventually angry. He projects his doubts about marriage and fear of abandonment onto her, nearly destroying their friendship.

Jordan's support system, a kind of queer family unit forged from platonic relationships with women, dwindles to just his grandmother, Helene, played by Judy Leavell. In a way, she is like a road map for him, as her frequent family reminiscences seem echoed in his desire for marriage and children. Eventually, she comes to give him the advice and support he needs about coping with his situation, even while Jordan is bitter and unappreciative.

Evan, a gay coworker, serves as a foil for Jordan in his confident, slightly flamboyant nature and casual approach to relationships. Evan's address of Jordan as "girl," moves beyond trope and highlights some of the tension surrounding why Jordan is otherized by his group of friends who can't seem to fully empathize with his plight as similar to and yet different from theirs.

Actor's Express smartly utilizes their set design to engage with the narrative's occasional breaks with temporality. Jordan's reveries play out before us, or his separate recollections to friends happen simultaneously. In effect, the audience sees things squarely from Jordan's point of view.

Quality performances in comedic timing and emotional depth from the actors mentioned above, as well as Britanny Inge as Vanessa, captivating in her irreverent approach to relationships and weddings. Jeremy Aggers and Edward McCreary are exceptionally good in their supporting roles, moving seamlessly from one character to the next.

"Significant Other" at Actor's Express may be a romantic comedy, but it's unlike others of its ilk. Joshua Harmon's choice to center a character typically relegated to the sidelines heightens the emotional stakes. The play successfully broaches topics related to gay men without necessarily being about identity. The effect is a fun, engaging production with tender and tense moments, working well overall to end their season on a strong note.

"Significant Other" runs through June 19 at Actor's Express, 887 West Marietta St NW J-107, Atlanta, GA 30318. For tickets or information, call 404-607-SHOW (7469) or visit actors-express.com