Significant Other | New Theatre

Image by Bob Seary

We are conditioned to want, or even expect, the fairytale romance culminating in marriage and a happily ever after with kids. Whether it’s romcoms, social norms, or capitalism, the pressure to fulfil these expectations is enormous. For some it’s a matter of casting off that narrative and seeking something else but what if you do want the fairytale and you just can’t get it?

Jordan (Tom Rodgers) is in his mid-20s and the first of his three best friends is about to get married. Over the next three years, each one of his friends will walk down the aisle into Jordan’s fantasy of love and happiness. But in that same time Jordan is struggling to find a boyfriend, instead spiralling through unrequited crushes and desperately combing his office for someone to love him. The loneliness eats him up and begins to infect every aspect of his life, most painfully, his friendships. Joshua Harmon’s script is the common but untold counter-narrative to your favourite romcom; where wanting something isn’t enough for it to come true.

Hayden Tonazzi’s direction was honest and well-balanced, allowing the heartbreak equal weighting to the humour and fun of Jordan’s life and Harmon’s script. There were a lot of ironies at work in this narrative from Jordan’s immense want for love matching his immense loneliness to his best friend Laura (Laura McInnes) throwing an elaborate wedding that she never wanted, but the central conflict is how Jordan’s loneliness slowly degrades the other relationships in his life as he becomes more depressed and withdraws from the love he does have. The muddled, messy dualities in Jordan’s story don’t allow for easy solutions and Tonazzi’s direction honoured this with space and time; quiet moments that allowed the character to just hurt.

The abstract art set design by Hamish Elliott with black frames and sliding white panels was inventive and integrated Morgan Moroney’s neon lighting design well. At other times, when the stage was awash in blue or purple light, the modernist aesthetic added a sharp and cool edge to the production which was engaging and atmospheric, particularly in a swoony pool scene.

For a six person cast, the actors did some heavy lifting to construct three love stories and a friendship group with a rich history. Matthew McDonald was a trooper for his portrayal of all three fiancés, the other office gay, and Jordan’s big crush Will. Despite limited lines as the fiancés, McDonald demonstrated real versatility in the variety of man brands cycling through Jordan’s periphery. Dominique Purdue and Isabella Williams were solid, if sometimes clueless, best friends who gave the production texture and bite.

On the other hand, as the primary comforter for Jordan, McInnes provided a more rounded character trying to balance everyone’s needs including her own. Laura’s position was understandable but not easy and McInnes did well to convey the implications of secondhand-suffering. But Rodgers’s performance as Jordan was easily the stand-out of the production. The character arc from upbeat but touchy to moody and bitter was heartbreaking, akin to being helplessly strapped into a doomed carnival ride. Rodgers’s vulnerability and the rawness with which he played both Jordan’s lows and his perilous highs was difficult to watch for their tender accuracy. Rodgers navigated the range of raging emotions in Jordan’s situation with skill and deft nuance.

Not everyone gets what they want, not every cloud has a silver lining, and not every story ends happily. In Significant Other, Jordan just asks for someone to sit with him in his pain.

Significant Other is running at New Theatre from June 1st – 26th

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