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Towards A “Basic” Theater

As an undergrad studying theatre, I find it my responsibility to see as many shows as possible to supplement my education. But let’s face it, $25 is still $25, even when a company such as Speakeasy Stage Company, whose tickets are over $50 per ticket on average, provides this as a student discount. By that comparison, I feel much more willing to let theatre eat into my Pad Thai budget for the week.

It’s no surprise, then, when I attended a matinee of Speakeasy’s latest production, Significant Other by Joshua Harmon, that I was one of the few members of that crowd that did not presently qualify for AARP. When walking out of the theater, I overheard a collective of irate elderly women clamoring that they spent however much money they paid to see a “basic” play.

And in their defense, they’re not entirely wrong.

The play remains pretty predictable throughout as each of Jordan Berman’s BFFL’s make life-long commitments of their own, leaving Jordan to search for that “special someone” that doesn’t appear to be looming in the distance, at least not as far as this play’s concerned. It is, for all intents and purposes, a “basic” play, down to the very last dream sequence, which could lead women like the ones I overheard in the lobby ask why they spent a month’s worth of Pad Thai takeout orders to see a story that could have just as easily been told in a rom-com on Netflix.

And yet.

Perhaps the reason this needed to be told onstage rather than on one’s laptop screen is that Jordan Berman didn’t even have a shred of romantic hope or sexual tension to fall back on with another character, the way that he most likely would in a major motion picture. He’s left to his own hopelessly romantic devices in a device-centric world, along with the rest of us. Not to isolate the older theatergoing population, but even in the past 15 years alone, love and marriage have flipped on its head with the emergence of online dating, “hookup” culture, and a drastic shift in the average age of marriage, if marriage is even a priority for an individual. Joshua Harmon encapsulates a generational shift in the millenial perception of “settling down” later on in life, and what that means for the close friends who prove to be invaluable throughout the elusive 20-something existence.

Maybe Harmon has latched onto a “basic” story that may not resonate with a generation that has already been through the ringer of marriage time and again. But for this up-and-coming generation of eligible partners, this “basic” construct of finding someone and marrying them is anything but.

Is that worth a minimum-$50 ticket? Ask me again when my student discount expires. But for half that price, I would gladly give up my Pad Thai for the week to sit in a theater and watch those shared frustrations about modern romance onstage, with no “basic” ending in sight.

 

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