If there is one thing in Significant Other that creates a ripple effect in how the show plays out on stage, and how it is perceived by the audience, it is the styling.
Not how the actors are styled on stage or the stage dressing, which itself is smart, but rather the pacing, the acting and the text of the play all feel different… modern… millennial.
Significant Other is a modern millennial tale about Jordan and his three closest friends as they navigate love, friendship and New York in their twentysomething years.
Jordan is single, and finding Mr Right is much easier said than done. While surrounding himself with his close group of girlfriends, it comes to pass that the only thing harder than looking for love is supporting the loved ones around him, as they pair off and embark on their journey of marriage.
From the start of show , which features pop music, followed by the rambling tangential pacing of the dialogue, you feel the immediate difference in what you’re watching, and your enjoyment depends on whether you’re willing to go along for the ride or not.
The show’s opening lines race out the gate, speedily delivered by Dominique Maher who plays Jordan’s friend Kiki. The show hits you with conversational dialogue, but it’s Maher’s opening lines that really help set the tone.
“The pacing of the dialogue was incredibly tricky in that the text is exactly how people communicate in day-to-day life,” Maher said. “There are many interjections, overlapping of conversations etc, and throw the fact that its a comedy in the mix and now there’s a rhythm to maintain.
“It took a ton of practice in rehearsals to reach the point of fluidity,” Maher adds.
This sentiment was shared by her cast members Roberto Kyle (roles of Gideon, Evan, Rodger) and Ryan de Villiers (roles of Will, Conrad, Tony).
“It was challenging at the beginning, because the dialogue has a very strict, specific rhythm and pace to it,” Kyle said. “I am still trying to constantly remind myself of the truth of the text – and to use the pace of the dialogue and intonation of the accent, as a tool to enhance that truth.”
De Villiers explained that the show’s director, Greg Karvellas, helped a lot with this by explaining the naturalistic style of the writing.
“I think everyone got the grip of it quite quickly though, because these characters are so relatable.”
The impressive feat of this, however, is that the audience can still enjoy listening to characters without being taken out of the theatre experience.
“With this type of play it was very important for us to bond as a family in order for the text to work on stage and I feel we have done just that.
“The cast members are so talented and incredible to work with, a s well as our amazing director Greg Karvellas, who guided us perfectly through this entire process,” Maher said.
De Villiers added: “Working with such talented actors and an amazingly humble and imaginative director has just made the space so welcoming and comfortable.
“The technical team have also played such a pivotal role in providing all of us with everything we’ve needed and making it a smooth and enjoyable process.”
Kyle said that it was always challenging tackling a relatively new text, but that he had found the challenge rewarding.
“I have been enjoying the processes of dismantling and discovery, with a group of individuals who enjoy what they do.”
Whatever special trick these South African theatre performers are doing to pull out such impressive performances is something they should keep doing. The pacing, the monologues, and the pauses and moments of internal dialogue all make this production one to see. It’s exciting not only watching the performers but seeing them get to play around.
“Exploring the world that my characters find themselves in has been very exciting for me,” Roberto Kyle said.
“It has revealed intricate detail as to who these people are. I play three very different characters, and I am finding it extremely exciting.”
De Villiers, who also plays three characters, has similarly found the experience liberating.
“I’ve started to enjoy my characters more and more, but trying to find their unique voices and qualities was quite a challenge to start, with mainly because they don’t have that much stage time. So making economical and effective choices was a lovely challenge.”
Maher’s portrayal of Kiki comes with its own set of challenges, with the actress revealing that the fun and difficulty in playing Kiki was finding balance and nuance.
“She’s a lot of fun, slightly over the top, and is very blunt with her words, no matter how inappropriate, which has been fun to explore as that’s not how we are usually allowed to conduct themselves in society.
“But on the other hand, it has been tricky to still make her relatable and likeable because of these personality traits.
“To me, bringing Kiki to life every night is like balancing on a tightrope, she’s both terrifying and exhilarating,” she said.
The play is a dramedy – drama and comedy – and those tones could easily feel in conflict with each other, but the actors deftly navigate through this. Significant Other is filled with skilful acting, with the show’s lead, Gabriel Meltz, pulling you in as the neurotic and highly-strung hopeless romantic Jordan.
Jordan feels very familiar; he’s a character who younger audiences will recognise themselves or friends in. However, it’s the palpable performance by Meltz that adds authenticity to the character and really makes you sympathise with his journey for love.
Jordan is a demanding character, but Meltz makes it seem that it’s effortless for him to play… though the actor reveals that isn’t exactly the case.
“It is very challenging, and takes a huge amount of energy, but is also so much fun!” Meltz said.
“Even though I am on the stage the whole time, everything happens so quickly there is never a moment to sit in a scene for too long before I’m off to the next scene. Before I know it, it’s the end of the play.”
“When I first read those monologues my eyes got very big, because there is also no punctuation. They’re just Jordan’s thoughts pouring out all at once. But as soon as I was able to understand Jordan and his rhythm, the monologues just made sense,” Meltz said.
“The writing is so good and every thought builds on the next so naturally that throughout the whole process it was just about being honest to the text!”
The writing for Significant Other, along with the performances , make this show a highlight and a joy to watch.
*‘Significant Other’ is at the Fugard Theatre until around July 7 , Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm , with a matinee on Saturdays at 3pm .
Tickets from R140 – R250 can be booked through the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554 or through the Fugard Theatre’s website at www.thefugard.com.