In Play Reviews

Lauren Steel and Jesse Weil in Tick, Tick…BOOM! Shawnte Sims photo.

Tick, Tick…BOOM! Jon’s (Jesse Weil) clock is ticking toward his 30th birthday. In Tom Wolfe’s book The Pump House Gang, 30 is the age above which people become untrustworthy. Grownups. It’s the time when people get their lives together and move forward.

Jon is still waiting tables in Manhattan and trying to get his new musical recognized. He’s planned a staged reading. Will anyone show up? Meanwhile, his roommate Michael (Tyler Andrew Jones), has given up acting and moved on to a marketing company. He drives a BMW these days, and is buying his own apartment. Girlfriend Susan (Lauren Steele) wants to move to Cape Cod to smell fresh air and sell stuff. Jon is up to his neck in the “pain of wanting something so bad,” and yet nothing seems to give.

Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…BOOM!, onstage now at Portland Center Stage at the Armory, is his sometimes autobiographical testimony to life as a starving artist. For Jon, it seems as if he’s been waiting tables since the dawn of man, and it doesn’t feel like he’s getting any closer to getting his work produced. And there’s that dang age thing. BOOM!

Fortunately for us, Larson was a genius. He wrote book, music, and lyrics for his work, and was posthumously honored for Broadway’s longest running musical RENT. Looking back on his short life makes Tick, Tick…BOOM! prophetic. There was so much in him, to him that we’ll never get to see.

Tyler Andrew Jones and Jesse Weil in Tick, Tick…BOOM! Shawnte Sims photo.

The play is a brilliant piece of work, with catchy music and dialog, satire and comedy, beautifully brought to life by the chemistry of the three actors. Directed by PCS artistic director Marissa Wolf, with vocal arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen Oremus, the production sizzles with fun and yet retains the serious thread of dealing with real life events while trying to make it in an impossibly difficult field of endeavor. ART IS WORK, the backdrop says. No. Kidding.

Alec Cameron Lugo serves as understudy for Jon and Michael; Netty McKenzie is understudy for Susan. Creative team members include David Auburn, script consultant; Muffie Delgado Connelly, choreographer; Lucy Wells, costume designer; David Lerman, conductor; Ash, music director; Masha Tsimring, lighting designer; dots, scenic designer; Sammi Kelly, sound designer; David Saffert and David Lerman, rehearsal accompanists; Kamilah Bush, dramaturg; Janine Vanderhoff, stage manager; Dana Petersen, assistant stage manager; Tyler Andrew Jones, dance captain.

Tick, Tick…BOOM! runs through September 18 on the Armory Main Stage. Tickets are available here.

Shawnte Sims photo.



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