‘Significant Other’: Maraio shines, and others follow
BOSTON – For actor Greg Maraio and playwright Joshua Harmon, the current SpeakEasy Stage Company production of “Significant Other” at the Calderwood Pavilion of the BCA could constitute a breakout performance and play, respectively.
That is, if they hadn’t already broken out.
Harmon’s “Bad Jews” was a hit in New York and all around the country, including a run at Speakeasy in 2014.
Maraio, an East Boston native, has been doing some fine work as both an actor and director for a decade, but his performance as a man making his first tenuous dip into the world of cross-dressing in Speakeasy’s “Casa Valentina” last season garnered critical acclaim from all corners.
He had the chance to show what he could do with a strong role with a major company in a cast with the best actors in Greater Boston and now, as 29-year-old Jordan Berman, a lonely, gay Jewish man living in New York, he has a role where the entire show revolves around him. He is up to the task and then some here in a funny, heartfelt performance that sets the tone for a uniformly excellent cast.
SpeakEasy is staging what is essentially an out-of-town tryout as well as a New England premiere. The show debuted in 2015 at the Roundabout Theatre Company in NYC, and that production will head to Broadway in February with the original cast from that production intact.
The facility that Harmon showed for razor-sharp dialogue in “Bad Jews” is here again in “Significant Other,” and again the dialogue is not only funny but has the ring of truth.
His ability to craft finely-drawn characters also comes to the fore again in the story of four musketeers – three straight single women and a gay man – who are BFFs, drinking and dancing and vowing always to be there for one another.
There’s the loud, sometimes vulgar Kiki (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard); Jordan’s true soulmate, Laura (Jordan Clark); and the oft-depressed Vanessa (Kris Sidberry).
Then, one by one, the women become involved in relationships – sometimes over Jordan’s objections – that lead to marriage and, obviously, a sea change in their relationships with Jordan.
He is both adrift and alone. His conversations with his doting grandmother (Kathy St. George)-are a refuge from the hurt and disappointment of his personal life
Of course, each time she sees him dhr pointedly asks him about that social life. The two work off each other beautifully – St. George remains a master of comic timing – and the scenes between them are some of the best in the piece.
And while the bouquets are being handed out, Eddie Shields and Jared Troilo are both required to transform themselves at a moment’s notice into boyfriends, husbands, or obnoxious co-workers, all of which they handle with skill and aplomb.
Troilo’s turn as Jordan’s dream man and co-worker Will is especially effective, including a scene where Jordan takes Will to, of all things, a documentary about the French-Prussian Wa.r
Harmon injects some hilarious fantasy sequences in which everything Jordan dreams about comes true. In one instance, Will is madly in love/lust with him, and their children are resting comfortably upstairs.
Jordan composes a long, confessorial. all-revealing email to Will that the women are sure will end in disaster, and that scene has Maraio as Jordan all but wrestling himself to the ground in trying to stop himself from sending it.
There are two short lulls – one at the end of the first act and one near the act of Act II – where Harmon appears to be doubling back on himself and is somewhat at risk of overstating his point. He quickly recovers and gets back on track.
SpeakEasy Artistic Director Paul Daigneault directs and as he’s done so often in the past brings out the best in the cast, helping them find the true center of their characters and combining that with almost flawless pacing.
There are jarring bits of dialogue that Harmon has Jordan deliver, and they have a way of framing the situation perfectly. “I’m almost 29 years old, and no one has ever told me they love me,” Jordan says. “That’s, like, a problem, isn’t it?”
And then when he realizes that Laura’s marriage will take away his last lifeline to a real relationship: “Your marriage is my funeral.”
Harmon’s Jordan is such a fully realized character and the performance by Maraio so strong that he has us both caring for him and rooting for him at the same time, and it also makes “Significant Other” a high point of the young theater season.
The SpeakEasy Stage Company production of “Significant Other.” Play by Joshua Harmon. Directed by Paul Daigneault. At the Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through Oct. 8. Tickets: 617-933-8600, www.speakeasystage.com