Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Significant Other
San Francisco Playhouse
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's reviews of Weightless, The Good Book, Jazz and 110 in the Shade and Jeanie's reviews of This Random World and Born Yesterday

Ruibo Qian, Kyle Cameron, Hayley Lovgren,
and Nicole-Azalee Danielle

Photo by Jessica Palopoli
Imagine you are on a lifeboat, adrift on a seemingly endless ocean. But you're not alone. In fact, the lifeboat is the site of a relatively fun party: drinks, laughs, friends. But every once in a while, a helicopter appears and rescues your friends one at a time, ultimately leaving you alone, scanning the horizon, hoping your own vehicle of deliverance will appear.

This, in a nutshell, is the character arc of Jordan Berman (a marvelously antic Kyle Cameron), the gay man at the center of Significant Other, now playing at San Francisco Playhouse, who revels in the friendship of his three best girlfriends—Kiki (Hayley Lovgren), Laura (Ruibo Qian), and Vanessa (Nicole-Azalee Danielle)—while struggling to find a man of his own as his besties one by one meet Mr. Right. Or at least Mr. Right Enough.

There's an appealing sort of schadenfreude in watching someone else deal with their neuroses. (Woody Allen has made a career mostly by appealing to just this market segment.) And boy, does Jordan have neuroses! He hates his body, is embarrassed by the account he's been assigned at work (a medication called "Replenz" that treats "dry vagina"), and obsesses over the subtext of emails and texts he receives (or doesn't). Is he being dissed? Ignored? Encouraged? Led on?

If he sounds annoying, he's not. And that's due in relatively equal parts to the work of playwright Joshua Harmon, who has created a character rich not only in neuroses, but in wit, passion, and a very big heart, and to Kyle Cameron, who inhabits Jordan with a taut, twitchy energy. It's if at any moment he is as likely to break out in hives or into a dance routine—which he does spectacularly at several of the bachelorette and wedding parties that take place over the course of the show. When he finally reaches a point of stillness, just before the final curtain, it's a fitting counterpoint to what has gone before, and reinforces the bittersweet nature of the play.

Jordan is at heart a kind and caring man, one who would likely shed many of his neuroses if only he could find someone he could love and who would love him in return. We see his sweet nature in several scenes in which he visits his bubbe Helene (the ever-delightful Joy Carlin), patiently looking at the same photo album, hearing the same stories, and making sure her medications are organized. But love doesn't seem to be on the horizon for Jordan, obsessed though he is with the new guy at work, Will (August Browning). There's a funny—and touching scene—early on when Jordan describes his first view of Will in a bathing suit as he emerges from a swimming pool at a summer office party.

Love—or something like it—does come to Kiki, Laura, and Vanessa, however. In fact, as the play opens, the four friends are whooping it up at Kiki's bachelorette party. (Where Hayley Lovgren does a spot-on interpretation of a young woman who has been over-served. It's all too easy to overplay drunkenness, but Lovgren maintains the delicate balance between sloppy and sloshed.)

Playwright Harmon has created something that feels almost cinematic, in large part by allowing action that took place in the past to be part of an ongoing scene, just as a film editor may cut back and forth between a scene and a character retelling the action of that scene.

As the play goes on, Jordan becomes more and more isolated and angry as his friends find their loves, leaving him to struggle along in the search for his own Mr. Right. His confrontation with Laura near the play's end, expressing his well-founded frustrations with the demands of friendship and a social contract in which he feels he's getting a raw deal, goes a long way toward helping us understand why Jordan is as neurotic as he is.

Despite all the neuroses and occasional anger in Significant Other, the play is fantastically entertaining, and a highly diverting way to distract oneself from one's own neurotic tendencies and social slights. With an excellent cast (playing against a sadly very unattractive set by scenic designer Jacquelyn Scott) well-directed by Lauren English, Significant Other illuminates the challenges of being single in a world that prizes connection.

Significant Other, through June 15, 2019, at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street, San Francisco CA. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday at 7:00pm, Friday-Saturday at 8:00pm, with matinees Saturday at 3:00pm and Sunday at 2:00pm. Tickets are $35-$125, available at or by calling the box office at 415-677-9596.