Jew Review: ‘Significant Other’ at MJTC

The Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company has done it again with another wonderful production. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Significant Other on opening night at MJTC’s home in Highland Park. In our overscheduled, overworked lives, this show gave me an evening of laughter and touching moments that lead to a wonderful after-show conversation with my guest about our universal struggles to make connections and be vulnerable with other people in our lives: The very things that are so much more important than being busy. Having missed the production of Bad Jews, this was my first exposure to playwright Joshua Harmon, but it surely won’t be my last.

Significant Other tells the story of four friends in their late 20’s experiencing the joy and pain of their friend group transitioning from their main support system; how quickly that can crumble as they start to pair up and prioritize partners over friends. This show is current and will resonate with anyone who has attempted dating-or even making meaningful connections-while trying to appear breezy in the age of texting. The show does have a younger voice than many of their productions and I was delighted to overhear someone lament how happy she is to not be young anymore!

Don’t be fooled by the constant barrage of bachelorette parties, weddings and baby showers I remember all too well from my late 20’s and early 30’s. The script has plenty of heft and people of all ages will find things to identify with. While the character of Jordan, played by Bradley Hildebrandt, is described as the lead, the show truly has an ensemble feel to it. The cast captured the pacing of the text beautifully. Hildebrandt himself took us on an emotional roller coaster of dreamy wishful thinking, to fear and loneliness. It’s true we don’t see that large a range from each individual character, yet the show exams the various dynamics in their friend group. Sometimes the most important moments are the quiet ones. All of the said and unsaid things we wish for our loved ones while being terrified of our own loneliness. I particularly loved the relationship between Jordan and Laura played by Chloe Armao. Paul LaNave and Tony Larkin, who each play multiple characters, created a distinct look and feel for each one of the various people they played.

I loved the set. I’ve seen dozens of shows at MJTC and this was one of the best uses of the space. It was creative and clean. The set allowed director Hayley Finn to clearly create multiple locations moving us from Bubbe’s house to work to the club multiple times. My favorite directorial nuggets were the various date recaps. Dissecting every word and physical aspect of the evening to your best friend and the importance they play in picking your romantic partners. The lighting design had delightful surprises as well, another somewhat difficult accomplishment in the space.

The only downside I see to the show is there is a fair amount of swearing in the script which may turn some people off, though I personally felt it was completely appropriate for the characters Harmon created. I was also surprised to find two different script descriptions that describe Jordan as a Jewish gay man. While both of those things are true and are addressed in the script, they are addressed as simply two aspects of Jordan’s life. Neither of those things was the focus of the character or required to understand the storyline. I found it refreshing and strengthens the storytelling.

Significant Other is playing at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company through March 8. Please find the time to get yourself to the Hillcrest Community Center in St. Paul before it closes. The show is witty and touching.