We’ve all been there. We’re facing a landmark birthday and our BFF is on a new path and our significant other has expectations and we’re staring down a crossroads riddled with self-doubt, anticipation, enthusiasm, and fear. What are you supposed to do? What should you do? Is it ever too late?
That’s the essence of Tick, Tick…BOOM! magnificently performed at Shea’s Smith Theatre by Second Generation Theatre. It’s a three hander with a lot going on. With Sean Ryan as Jon, Leah Berst, and Joe Russi play multiple roles in the life of this aspiring composer who is facing down the days leading up to his 30th birthday. Created by the late Jonathan Larson, it’s semi-autobiographical and wasn’t fully staged until after his way-to-early death at age 36, the day before his seminal work Rent was to open off-Broadway.
Jon is plugging away, getting ready to workshop his latest work. His girlfriend Susan is a dancer who is teaching ballet on the side. His best bud Michael, after trying his hand at acting, is a marketing executive with a BMW, fancy new digs, a corporate wardrobe and apparently few regrets about leaving the stage behind. Berst is also Jon’s mom, his agent, Karessa the ingenue in his workshop, making minor wardrobe and prop switches to emphasize her character changes. It’s her force of personality, command of her voice, and body language that put us there, though. It’s breathtaking. Equally powerful is Russi’s flexes from slick business guy to the deli clerk, and Jon’s pipe smoking dad.
Whew. Everything about the production is spot on. I couldn’t imagine a better SGT-selected cast. Ryan commands the stage, cleverly designed by Chris Cavanagh to suggest Jon’s less grand SoHo apartment, the subway, his buddy Michael’s uptown place, other places. It takes some theatre of the mind to get there, but the storytelling is so vivid, your mind’s eye doesn’t have to struggle. The score is a winner: standouts are “Therapy,” a Jon and Susan duet as they gently explore the minefield of a dysfunctional relationship. It’s comic, and charming, and sad all at the same time; “30/90,” Jon’s ruminations on his impending birthday, Michael’s “Real Life” reflection on the choices he made that are working for him; Karessa the ingenue’s “Come To Your Senses” ballad; and Jon’s “Why” as he reflects on choices. Music director Joe Isgar and his quartet play the dickens out of this powerful music. Lou Colaiacovo’s direction makes great use of the two tier stage and the storytellers upon it.
Can I say it again? Whew. There’s more going on with this story, but I’m not about the spoil it for you. Just see it. And book your tickets now. This is the show to see as the theatre season is winding down.
Tick, Tick…BOOM! is performed in one glorious, 90-minute act. Fill your sippy cup in the lobby before you go in and then hunker in for one heck of a ride. Get tickets at www.sheas.org.
Second Generation Theatre
40 Allegany Avenue
Kenmore, NY 14217