a, Arts & Entertainment, Theatre

tick, tick…BOOM! is no bust

It’s a musical where “everybody we know wants to be something else.” With a cast of three actors and a live four-piece band, Tuesday Night Cafe (TNC) presents tick, tick..BOOM!, by Jonathan Larson, best known for bohemian rock musical Rent. Choosing love, success,  or passion as life’s top priority is one of the many relevant themes at work in TNC’s latest feature.

This autobiographical piece centres on Jon (Brendan Macdonald) as he frets over his fast-approaching, much dreaded 30th birthday and his lack of success as a ‘promising young composer.’  It was originally written as a one-person show, where one actor portrays Jon and every other character in his life as he explores New York City through his own psyche. TNC and director Jon Corkal chose to portray a posthumously edited version of the musical with three actors. One (Macdonald) plays Jon, another (Nathaniel Hanula-James) mainly plays Jon’s lifelong best friend Mike, as well as every other minor male role, and a third (Teodora Mechetiuc) principally plays Jon’s girlfriend Susan, in addition to every other minor female role.

This musical does not present the typical musical tropes—there are no large choruses, no complex dance routines, and no overly cheerful characters. Besides the spontaneous singing and omnipresent band, it remains firmly centred in everyday reality—or, at least, Jon’s interpretation of reality.

Corkal uses an extremely minimalist set for this performance, which works both thematically and practically. With the small space of the TNC theatre and the band (John Castillo on electric guitar, Josh Loke on bass guitar, and Ben Mayer-Goodman on drums) taking up a third of the stage, Corkal wisely chooses to keep physical objects to a minimum to ensure ample moving space for the actors. Without the distraction of excess furniture or decorations, the audience is forced to focus on the cast and their relationships—the life and purpose of the show.  Due to the small theatre size, microphones are unnecessary for the casts’ beautiful, natural voices to easily be heard, enhancing the intimacy of the show.

Macdonald, Hanula-James, and Mechetiuc carry a lot of pressure in this show with no external support, and each one gloriously succeeds in the execution of each character. Macdonald at first appears a bit flat or uninspired, going through monologues as if bored and only picking up energy during songs, but this is merely how Jon is meant to be played. As the plot progresses and Jon faces increasingly emotional events, Macdonald portrays exact changes and believably shows Jon’s emotional state, no matter how subdued it is meant to be. Contrarily, Hanula-James and Mechetiuc constantly pour out energy in each line’s delivery, whether spoken or beautifully sung. Each of the actors’ voices can be distinctly enjoyed in their solo songs “Real Life” and “Come to Your Senses.”

The band fuels the show with constant energy and momentum, driving each song without inadvertently drowning out the singers. The band members also had a few lines, making them not just a live soundtrack, but truly integrated as well.

Ultimately, Corkal chose an ideal musical to perform at a university: the themes of career choice, relationship problems, fading friendships, and the pursuit of intrinsic happiness over commercial success—all fully explored—are omnipresent at McGill. Just as the characters must choose between a safe, comfortable life, and an exciting but dangerous one, you can choose to continue your life without the experience of this play, or instead try something new: an inspiring play with great music, occasional laughs, and terrific acting.


tick, tick…BOOM! plays from Oct. 23-26 at 8 p.m. in Morrice Hall on McGill Campus. Student tickets are $6.

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