It is not often that we meet a truly delightful person, one who stands out in a crowd and continues to become more and more endearing. Rarer still are the instances in which we feel that, after a brief two hours, we truly know and treasure this person. Such is the case with Jordan (played by Jesse R. Gephart), the central character in Theatre Raleigh’s production of Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other.
Lest we seem to be dwelling exclusively on one single aspect, however, let us state that director Julia Murney has delivered a show that is, indeed, the total package — the writing, the acting, the direction, and the tech all contribute to a first-class whole.
Chris Bernier’s scenic design affords a multiple-location set on which the actors are able to move seamlessly from one setting to another. We were amazed at how easily the action flowed from bachelorette party to office coffee station to art museum to pool party to Jordan’s apartment to Jordan’s grandmother’s apartment and more! Jenni Mann Becker’s lighting design contributes to this ease as the various realities become the central focus. And Emily Johns has supplied a wide array of costumes (including appropriately hideous “walking-birth-control” bridesmaid dresses).
Back to Jordan: he is the “other” of the title, and he is truly “significant.” We meet him and his three best friends in the opening scene, at a bachelorette party for Kiki (Meagan Chieppor). Jordan is the only male in this group, and it soon becomes apparent that he is gay. But, while those distinctions make him stand out from this crowd, it is the wit and the charm, the idiosyncrasies and the vulnerabilities that Gephart imbues the character with that make him so endearing.
We will see Jordan through several different lenses as he loves-and-loses on different levels. We will empathize with his romantic aspirations as well as his fantasies. And we will feel his hopes, his losses, and his disappointments. But that is not all — Jordan is also quite funny. Gephart delivers on many of the “typical gay” mannerisms and foibles, but never goes beyond the pale. If anything, he leaves us hungering for more. And we get plenty more of Jordan as Gephart bares the character’s soul in the second act.
Other sources of warm-and-fuzzy smiles include: Jordan’s affection for his grandmother (Barbara Kingsley) and his sense of ironic self-awareness. Watch, also, for his theory concerning the connection between love and sex, and stay tuned for a short scene that validates his feelings on that subject.
The opening-scene party is quite lively with loud, hard-driving music and much drink. In the midst of their revelry, Kiki announces “It’s all about me” and proceeds to give a speech to that effect. As the saying goes: a good time was had by all. There are two more bachelorette parties later in the play; they are progressively less raucous, and Jordan’s level of engagement also lessens. It is “significant” that he is becoming more and more “other.”
Along with Meagan Chieppor’s Kiki, we also meet Laura (Emily Bosco) and Vanessa (Shayla LaGrange); these women comprise Jordan’s trio of close friends. In addition to “hanging out” with Jordan, they are “there for him” as he confides in them and seeks their advice. We were impressed by the ensemble’s ability to demonstrate just how dear Jordan’s friends are to him, and we were able to actually feel his bonds to them, even across the footlights. So real were these connections that we shared his sense of loss as, one-by-one, these precious friends are “married-off.”
Adam Poole and Melvin Gray, Jr. each play three distinctly different characters and do so with aplomb.
In addition to the three bachelorette parties, the script contains other important series of “re-plays,” all of them touching. One is Jordan’s series of visits to his grandmother, Helene’s, home, where Barbara Kingsley is loveably affectionate (and absent-minded), and we are touched by their mutual tenderness. This series is significant in its consistency. Another is the series of wedding reception “first dances,” which is significant due to the progression, the changes that we see in Jordan as he attends the wedding of one friend, then a second, and then a third (and final). And yet another is a series of phone calls to friends.
Well-written, meticulously directed, and well-acted, Theatre Raleigh’s presentation of Significant Other is well worth seeing.
SECOND OPINION: June 15th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Review by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-Theatre-Raleighs-Compelling-SIGNIFICANT-OTHER-Strikes-Delicate-Balance-20180615 and June 8th Raleigh, NC BWW Interview with Theatre Raleigh guest director Julia Murney, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-Broadway-Vet-Turned-Director-Julia-Murney-Dishes-About-Theatre-Raleighs-SIGNIFICANT-OTHER-20180608; June 14th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/06/theatre-raleighs-significant-other-is-in-a-word-perfect/; June 13th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/significant-other/Event?oid=15049185; and June 3rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article212217474.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the June 15th Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/06/jesse-r-gepharts-performance-as-jordan-in-significant-other-for-theatre-raleigh-is-worth-the-price-of-admission/.)
Theatre Raleigh presents SIGNIFICANT OTHER at 8 p.m. June 15, 2 and 8 p.m. June 16, 3 p.m. June 17, 8 p.m. June 20-22, 2 and 8 p.m. June 23, and 3 p.m. June 24 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theatre in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $32 ($30 students, seniors 60+, and active-duty military personnel), except $20 per person for groups of 10 or more.
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SHOW: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/significant-other/ and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/summer-series-2-theatre-raleigh-9180.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAinOgpYfck.
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PARKING/MAP: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/location-parking/ and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking.
Significant Other (2015 Off-Broadway and 2017 Broadway comedy): https://www.samuelfrench.com/p/59657/significant-other (Samuel French, Inc.), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/significant-other-509695 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Significant_Other_(play) (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://issuu.com/geffenplayhouse/docs/significantother-studyguide (Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, CA).
Joshua Harmon (playwright): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/joshua-harmon-509697 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm6274897/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Harmon_(playwright) (Wikipedia).
Julia Murney (director): http://www.juliamurney.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/julia-murney-101469 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614000/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Murney (Wikipedia).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.