Review: Significant Other – Newtown Theatre (NSW)

Directed by Hayden Tonazzi, Written by Joshua Harmon, Set Design by Hamish Elliott

The show opens at the first of three bachelorette parties that are held throughout the play. One by one the beloved gal pals’ of the twenty-something, single and gay, Jordan Berman (Tom Rodgers), find love, become engaged and then married, as Jordan’s fear of never finding his own ‘significant other’ leads to great loneliness and then despair.  

“You’ll have a husband, children…I won’t even come close. And I shouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to. It’s just…your wedding is my funeral…” 

The single set space, although not quite minimalist, is economically designed and serves the production well. Although set very much in the present, with omnipresent smartphones and uninhibited sexual references, dark multi-level steps provide the foundation upon which multiple rice paper walls are perched, referencing a traditional Japanese Minka house.  Perhaps a nod to the plight of Japan’s salarymen who struggle to develop meaningful relationships while conforming to the pressures of expected career pathways often leading to great loneliness?  The white rice paper walls provide a happy canvas to enhance the emotional journey as colours merge and blur.

Doorways are cleverly constructed throughout the space and work cohesively with Morgan Morony’s lighting design to provide a satisfying indication of multiple locations. These are outlined with neon lighting that appears to enhance gender conformity as they change from pink to blue and occasionally yellow throughout the show. In addition to this, sliding compartments adding to the overall Japanese style pleasingly hold set dress elements and props that are easily accessible by the cast as required.  

This production captures well the essence of what it feels like when everyone around you seems to be moving on and you end up feeling very much alone.

There are touches of Sondheim’s Company about this work – a single Jewish, New Yorker watching his friends marry and move on, while he struggles to find someone of his own – although unlike Bobby, Jordan is overtly and openly gay. Although many of the jokes were not new and some perhaps even a little tired, there were a great deal of laugh out loud moments that were enthusiastically enjoyed by the opening night audience, as well as deeply touching moments of poignancy inspiring heartfelt empathy.  

Tom Rodgers delivers a commendable performance in the lead role of Jordan Berman, and in fact the whole ensemble is well cast with the four central characters taking us on an authentic journey.  Unfortunately, at times this was undercut as female cast members grappled with getting their tongues around an American accent, causing significant distraction and bewildered frustration.  I had to wonder what would have been lost by resetting this story in Sydney – with hens’ nights instead of bachelorette parties and the addition of references to Australian towns and locations.  Indeed, this may have enhanced the production by evoking an even stronger connection with the audience and allowing performances to be delivered free from the complexities of performing with an accent. 

Director Hayden Tonazzi’s vision focuses very much on the growing loneliness of the lead. The repetition of Jordan’s visits to his Grandma are used well as a measurement to show this growing grievous void in his life.  Grandma cycles on the same track while Jordan grows resentful, moving from philosophical acceptance to emotional rants as he feels completely abandoned.

An honourable mention must also go to Matthew McDonald, who not only plays the object of Jordans workplace obsession, Will, but also inhabits a plethora of roles including the husbands of Jordan’s female friendship trio and the annoyingly camp workmate, Evan.

This production captures well the essence of what it feels like when everyone around you seems to be moving on and you end up feeling very much alone.  Audiences can expect to be impacted by this emotional journey and be delighted by some very clever blocking that works exceptionally well with the text, enhanced by tight lighting cues that bring moments of theatrical delight.

Reviewer Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Significant Other is playing at the New Theatre in Newtown from 1st-26th June, 2021. Thursday to Saturday 7.30pm, Sundays 5pm. Final Performance 26th June 2pm. Running time 95 minutes, no interval.

Creative Team
Director  Hayden Tonazzi
Set Designer  Hamish Elliott
Lighting Designer  Morgan Moroney
Costume Designer  Kate Beere
Sound Designer  Aron Murray
Music Supervisor  Oliver Beard
Vocal Coach  Laura Farrell
Assistant Director  Sophia Bryant
Production Manager  John Short
Stage Manager  Lillian Lee
ASM  Louie Walsh

Matthew McDonald
Laura McInnes
Dominique Purdue
Tom Rodgers
Helen Tonkin
Isabella Williams

Full $35
Concession, Group (6+) $30
New Theatre Member $22
Thrifty Thursday $22
Preview $20

Please note: New Theatre is a general admission theatre and seat selection is done on a first-come-first-serve basis. As per NSW Public Health COVID-19 guidelines, we now running at 100% capacity (148 patrons) and face masks are optional, but recommended. If you have any concerns, please contact our Theatre Manager

About the Author
Karen Illesca has worked professionally as an actor, director and producer and holds a number of screen credits, primarily in the role of Production Manager. Karen loves to create and has worked previously in both drama and music education, as well as in Marketing Communications in the tertiary sector.  Earlier this year she launched a brand-new company in partnership with Phillippa Webb – 2Kats Productions – who currently have their first screen arts project, the Whirld Web Series, in postproduction.   

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