Poor wallflowers. They’re the ones no one asks to dance, to go to the prom, to get married. The wallflower in “Significant Other,” Joshua Harmon’s bittersweet play about four friends and three marriages, is a gay man (winningly played by Gideon Glick) who goes through all the stages of happiness and hurt when each of his straight girlfriends falls in love and marries.
Somebody threw some money at this show since it played Off Broadway at the Roundabout Theater Company two years ago. Trip Cullman repeats his directorial chores with the same insouciant ease while his collaborators — Mark Wendland (set), Kaye Voyce (costumes) and Japhy Weideman (lighting) — make some smart adjustments for the larger Broadway house. (At 800 seats, the Booth is twice as large as the Laura Pels.)
Playwright Harmon (who also penned the very popular “Bad Jews”) strikes the perfect balance between comedy and pathos — with the emphasis on comedy — in this good-natured meditation on love and friendship. Say what you will about eternal friendship, it goes right out the window when love comes through the door.
Jordan Berman, played with unassuming sweetness by the engaging Glick (“Spring Awakening”), is an unattached gay man with three best friends. Kiki (a comic delight in Sas Goldberg’s saucy performance) is the outrageously fearless show-off. Good-natured Vanessa is Miss Popularity and, as played by new cast member Rebecca Naomi Jones, an unpretentious raving beauty. Warm, trusting Laura is Jordan’s true soulmate in Lindsay Mendez’s open-hearted performance.
Harmon clearly loves his demographic of 20-something singles who pride themselves on their grown-up sense of irony. He knows their pop-culture allusions, shares their musical tastes, and revels in their newly found freedoms. The wonder of his humor is that, while it reflects a youthful sensibility, his clever jokes appeal to all ages.
But Harmon also acknowledges the sexual stirrings that will eventually break up the little gang. One by one, beginning with brash Kiki, the girls fall in love and marry, and Jordan’s life suddenly becomes an endless round of bridal showers and weddings and baby showers — and many, many expensive presents.
More than that, he recognizes these rituals as a formal farewell to all the old relationships. Even faithful Laura betrays him by choosing to close-dance with her husband instead of performing a giddy parody with her bestie. Glick is especially funny — and moving — when Jordan makes a (clumsy) move on his man-crush, a hunk played by hunky John Behlmann, who does additional duty as all three husbands.
Only his Grandma Helene, played by Barbara Barrie with the dark humor of an older, wiser generation, offers Jordan a taste of his own loneliness with her morbid reflections on death, a subject to which she has given much cheery thought. Yes, cheery, because Harmon is that kind of playwright: He makes you laugh, he makes you laugh harder, and then he makes you choke.