Gideon Glick of "Significant Other": Brilliant, Wild, Necessary
There is a form of therapy taking place right now at the Laura Pels Theatre, where Joshua Harmon’sSignificant Other is playing through August 16th. I suggest that you submit to it, because at its center is Gideon Glick, an actor to whom resistance is futile, and whose dazzling talent takes you through a hall of mirrors that reflect Jacques Tati, Marlon Brando, Sandy Dennis, John Malkovich, and Glick’s own sharp intelligence and curiosity, through which all of his characters are filtered.
“It has to be personal,” he told me, “and while I’m true to the writer and the character he created, I’m also filtering it all through my own experiences. It’s what I also look for in the actors I admire.” Glick shares the stage with the redoubtable Barbara Barrie, who plays his befuddled but loving grandmother, a woman who is losing her friends to death and dementia as her grandson loses his to marriage. The scenes between Glick and Barrie are particularly resonant because they are both highly intuitive actors unafraid to use their intelligence and humor as a foundation for their work. While they never waver in their commitment to Harmon’s script, Barrie and Glick nonetheless give their scenes a sense of theatrical competition, as two skilled artists bounce off each other, upping the ante, warping and weaving: A tight cord of love and tension and concern tether these two actors—and these two characters—to each other.
The therapy you experience is not only in having the pleasure of watching an actor about whom we’ll be talking and arguing for years to come, but in listening to and watching the audiences, who respond openly to his character throughout the evening: They talk to him; they exhort him; they beg him to not be foolish; they coo after him to not give up hope. There were moments in the play when a woman behind me was kicking my seat in frustration at his failure to recognize his worth, his attractiveness. At the intermission she confessed to her partner that she wanted to “rush up there and mother him.”
The gay men in the audience have similarly strong reactions, and as they watch his character struggle with the loss of his female friends and the encroaching loneliness that he feels cannot be averted as a gay man who has never been told he is loved, they admit that they have been in the same situations and done the same stupid things. Watching Glick’s character struggle with the decision to send a highly personal e-mail, his finger teasing the SEND button, led one man to admit it was like waiting for a gun to go off.
Glick has been working in the theatre—and in films and television—for nearly a decade, since he graduated from high school in Philadelphia, and his impressive resume includes Ernst in Spring Awakening (“That show,” he admits, “was my conservatory training”), Jack in the Public’s staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and a particularly wonderful performance in Stephen Karam’sSpeech & Debate, which had Glick displaying raw and pure emotion (as in Significant Other) that made me think of Pauline Kael’s description of an early stage appearance by Marlon Brando, in which she lowered her head in embarrassment at the prospect that an actor had lost his way, forgotten his lines, and was engaged in real-life horror. Glick can unnerve an audience as easily as he can seduce it, and he arrives prepared to do what he must: He adheres to a mental regime when he is working that does not include any television during the day, as much theatre as possible, and the ingestion of as much art as he can manage. An art-history major at NYU, Glick was recently looking at and thinking of Renieri’s St. Sebastian, an appropriate choice since his character in Significant Other is so often receiving arrows in the form of opinions and judgments from others and manifesting them with pain, acceptance, and some form of defense. “My life,” he says, “whatever I’m seeing or reading or listening to is informing my work and my brain, and I will bring it all onto the stage with me. If I were to list all the things that have been in my brain since I did a reading of this play in December, it would be long, but it’s there. Look, all I have to give—all anyone has to give—is our own humanity. All I have is my emotional life, and I bring it and I share it.”
At a time when so many people who claim to love the theatre bemoan its death or its creative paralysis, here is an actor who is giving so much of himself to a witty, emotionally coruscating play, and Glick can’t wait to tell me how lucky he is. “"Anyone working in the theater has to believe they're lucky,” Glick tells me “It's too hard to succeed in it not to. We also have to believe in what we're doing. I call it Drinking the Kool-Aid. If I'm going to do what I do well then I must be certain about it and believe. I must identify and ruminate on the positive. Survival is finding the positive. I'm fully immersed in this play right now and I consider myself very lucky.”
The lucky theatregoer is the one who sees Gideon Glick in Significant Other. We are going to talk about him, about this performance, for a long time. It is a wild, dense performance. Give in to it. We can question the theatre. We can demand as much of it as we like. We cannot, however, ignore someone like Gideon Glick and fail to respond to what he is giving—right here, right now—in this play.
Let the discussion begin now.
Joshua Harmon's Significant Other is not only beautifully served by Gideon Glick and Barbara Barrie: Its flawless cast includes Lindsay Mendez (a second heart that beats within the play), Sas Goldberg (who is indelible and as valuable as oxygen; she lifts the show to its high plane with her opening lines), John Behlmann, Carra Patterson, and Luke Smith. Its wise, intrepid, and fleet director is Trip Cullmann.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 212.719.1300