|Scott Gessford and Brian Yates Sharber in tick, tick... BOOM! PHOTO BY KENT TAYLOR
Believe it or not, MEN have biological clocks, too. No, not like reaching an age when they really have to have a baby. Itâ€™s more like getting to a point in oneâ€™s life where you feel youâ€™ll never truly create something important. The clock is ticking. So it is in Jonathan Larsonâ€™s quirky autobiographical musical, tick, tickâ€¦BOOM!, produced by Theatre Rhinoceros and currently running at the Eureka Theatre. For Larson, the creator of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent, the clock of his career is a time bomb about to go off.
At opening we hear an annoying ticking sound, and then the Jonathan character explains why. This three-person, one-act, bare-bones musical takes a risk in not having the luxury of scenery or very many props, and the three-piece band is not hidden but very visible on stage right. Jonathan constantly breaks character to talk to the audience. Two (of three) actors have very few costume changes, yet (like chameleons) manage to convincingly change characters quickly and frequently. Bright red chairs provide the only â€śsceneâ€ť changes. So itâ€™s really up to the book, the music, and the actors to make it work. And it does. This is no bomb.
Actor Gessford is the affable but anxiety-ridden Jonathan, whose composer idol is Stephen Sondheim. So itâ€™s no accident that his musical within a musical has remarkable similarities to Sondheimâ€™s Company. Holly Nugent is his attractive girlfriend Susan as well as a number of different women ranging from self-centered theatrical agent to aspiring actress (where Nugent really shines). But the real scene stealer is Brian Yates Sharber as Michael, best friend of Jonathan since they were eight. Oh, Michael is also gay; and I mean reeeaaally GAY. Also, he plays Jonathanâ€™s stodgy father, a businessman and a shopkeeper.
Jonathan must choose whether to join corporate life or to be the bohemian playwright eternally shopping his play around in hopes of somehow scoring a producer. He complains that anyone born after 1960 to be very creative but are rather â€śconservative, complacent, unimaginative, and obtuse.â€ť Summing up his ongoing angst, he states, â€śTo put it another way, George Bush is President.â€ť Enough said.
Unfortunately, Susanâ€™s biological clock is ticking, and she wants to leave NYC for the country to raise kids. But New England is just not the place to get plays produced. Michaelâ€™s financial district job affords him a deluxe apartment and a new BMW. And Jonathanâ€™s waiter job makes him live in a slum and take taxis. Cue the song â€śJohnny Canâ€™t Decide.â€ť
The songs are all quite catchy, thanks to the band of Musical Director Dave Dobrusky (keyboards), Hiroshi Hara (electric guitar), and Alexander Szotak (percussion). And all three actors have fine singing voices. There is a song just about a green green dress, and a hoedown on the lowdown of confusing communications in relationships. There is even a song about Twinkies (but no mention of dastardly assassin Dan White and the ridiculous Twinkie defense). And AIDS does raise its ugly head.
If you liked Rent, odds are you will like tick, tickâ€¦ BOOM! as well. Itâ€™s a great opportunity to get inside a composerâ€™s head and see how it ticks.
Unfortunately this musical has a time clock, because it must close February 28, and then, BOOM, itâ€™s over. Hurry! The clock is ticking!
Tick, Tickâ€¦ Boom! continues (Wednesday to Sunday at various times) until Feb. 28 at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Tickets ($15-$30) call (800) 838-3006 or at brownpapertickets.com.