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tick, tick... BOOM! at McGill's Tuesday Night Café

Posted by Bryan / October 16, 2013

ttb-7a.jpg Have you felt that mounting anxiety as you slouch slowly towards your 30th birthday? If you're in a creative profession the healthy mix of envy, contempt, frustration and angst at the start of a career can feel all too familiar. To see all that frustration represented on stage by a stellar cast is nothing short of spectacular...

Though we don't usually cover student productions, TTB is such a wonderful piece of theatre and it's very rarely staged. TTB isn't all that well-known. Jonathan Larson, who would go on to write Rent!, penned the show in 1991 to deal with the frustration of his former project. Larson had spent seven years writing Superbia, a show based on George Orwell's 1984 that was never fully produced. In a spirit similar to Steven Sondheim's 1981 Merrily We Roll Along-- through with blunter honesty and far less spectacle-- the show explores the difficulty of maintaining relationships, artistic integrity and the sacrifices one has to make (and keep making) to pursue one's dreams. Knowing that Larson died the night before Rent! opened off-Broadway in 1995 makes the blood, sweat, tears and anguish represented in this show so much more poignant. In retrospect, you can see a number of themes Larson would later develop more fully in Rent!!, such as the effects of the AIDS epidemic on personal relationships, the fear of selling-out and the general disenchantment of the 1990s. The cast is simple, composed of three actors and a band. Larson's high-energy score, driven by piano and electric guitars along with the evocative dramatic intensity of the script lends a lot of power to the show. It also makes it a notoriously difficult piece to stage. The show requires its actors to familiarize themselves with unconventional harmonies and to display a great deal of versatility singing everything from country to rock to pieces that verge on operatic.

McGill's Tuesday Night Café (TNC) does an admirable job putting on TTB. The actors are each incredibly talented and have wonderful diction (something essential in a piece like TTB). Brendan Macdonald (Jon), has an impressive range and the vocal power to carry the edge of Larson's melodies. His acting manages to convey the frustration and anxiety of Jon without being over-the-top, and he deftly manages the many monologues of his character without ever losing steam and he manages to accompany skillfully accompany himself with an electric piano at several points in the show. Nathaniel Hanula-James (Mike) seems to be more of a tenor than a baritone, which initially made his voice seem somewhat fragile though he warmed up and began to project more as the show progressed. The most stunning performance was given by Teodora Mechetiuc (Susan). She handles the soaring melodies, key changes and many a cappella pieces effortlessly with an elegant and dynamic voice.

The director, Jon Corkal, managed to pick a cast with wonderful chemistry and set up some simple but very effective blocking that helps carry the actors voices throughout the the small TNC theater. The actors' chemistry really comes out in pieces like "No More" (Jon and Mike's amazement at Mike's new luxury apartment), or my personal favourite "Therapy" (Jon and Susan's back and forth phone argument patter set to a twangy country backdrop). Larson's own tribute to Sondheim, his mentor and idol, "Sunday" is wonderfully evocative of the crap you have to deal with when you work in food service and the cast does a splendid job with the choral beauty of the piece. The only sour note was that the band could have used a little more practice. They sometimes weren't in sync and the pianist occasionally had trouble keeping up (to be fair, it's a very difficult score to play).

Overall, this is a fantastic production of a piece that you'll rarely get the opportunity to see on stage. Whether you're rent-head, in a creative profession, filled with anxiety about turning 30, or you just want to see a good piece of theatre on the cheap, go check this out. You won't regret it.

tick, tick...BOOM!
Oct 16-19 & 23-26th at 8pm
Morrice Hall - 3485 McTavish
$10 adults
$6 students



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