Tick, Tick…BOOM! tells the story of a young writer, Jon, who is on the brink of being 30 and still insignificant. His girlfriend, Susan, can’t wait to get married and leave the city for good (TICK). His bestfiend, Michael, already gave up acting to pursue a marketing job where he is earning real bucks. Big bucks (TICK). Meanwhile, Jon is still waiting on tables to support himself while trying to write (hopefully) the next “great American musical” (BOOM)!
9 Works Theatrical’s staging of Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…BOOM! comes with three young great talents in Philippine Musical Theater. Director Robbie Guevara blocks with circadian depth to tell Larson’s autobiographical musical and the dawn of one of America’s most loved musicals. All throughout, you see the actors subtlety “operating” clockwise, sketching a silent countdown to whatever lies ahead: the BOOM!, that is
Mio Infante‘s metaphorical stage depicts more than just the apparent. It presents deeper representations and personal perspectives that the characters see and feel. Infante’s New York backdrops Jon’s varying choices, making this city of steel and dream less than what is seems. Susan wishes to leave and Michael only sees it as a backdrop. For Jon, however, New York is the place where he can build and live his dreams. Though at some point, it seems like just a place.
Floating above the stage are layered circles, however incomplete and unmoving. It somewhat looks like Japanese ensos, showing the need for balance, creativity and accomplishment. However, you see them drifting, accumulating and about to crash.
Ariel Reonal plays the self-absorbed Michael with reasonable charm. He’s on the other side of Jon’s pendulum: the self-fulfilled man who found his way to the top, albeit leaving his passion acting and theater. Tanya Manalang is Susan, and she’s as equally fascinating. If Michael is on the other side, Susan is on the other end. She continues to pursue her art and at same time gets to keep an earning.
Jef Flores as Jon is the confused central character. Flores’ take on Larson’s autobiographic character shines with attractive magnetism and familiarity. Flores seems to be in command of the show. He never leaves the stage, nor rest for a bit. For more than an hour and a half, Flores commands the RCBC platform both with presence and character.
Tick, Tick…BOOM! matters because it is relevant. In the musical, you will see how Larson has gone through hell and back before great RENT came to mind. Above him are drifting ensos, representing a life of creativity, passion and freedom, but these could also be his own funeral. In Tick, Tick…BOOM, we take a psychic trip to the mind of the artist to pursue or not to pursue. Along its narratives, we see how much Jon tried to follow convention and fail. That is because his soul belongs to his art. It is his religion, and we soon accept that we cannot blame him for that.
Watching this musical could be heartbreaking, but it is undeniably freeing. We know that Larson eventually made something that is worth the books and our memories. His first and only major musical, RENT, soon made it to Broadway and to the world, earning recognitions after another. It eventually rippled into a wave by becoming a musical that defined a generation; touching lives that it even invaded our soon-to-be-obsolete Sony Walkmans when we were young. But Larson never had his taste of glory. He died even before his work became known. He moved on even before he knew that his tiresome, confused and seemingly hopeless struggle to make it will eventually pay off.
On the other hand, it speaks that battles (in one way or the other) are still won. Though set in the 90s, Tick, Tick…BOOM! still echoes familiar themes of life choices. Artists or not, it reaches out to us to continue dreaming and believing in what we can give. Hope strives when we strive, too. Larson or not, we are all the creators of our own destinies and builders of whatever we can give to the world.
If only we keep the courage. If only we’d continue to chase our dreams.
Featured photo by Trixie Dauz