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9 Works Theatrical’s Tick…Tick…Boom! is a timely explosion of real questions and confrontations on what it means to grow up and get older

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — If birthdays are indicative of anything, it’s that another year has gone by and hence the call for reflection on where you stand in life. Such is the premise of 9 Works Theatrical’s Tick…Tick… Boom! 

We see Jon (Jef Flores) in his New York apartment, the primary setting of the play. He opens the narrative with an admission that there is the sound of time running out in his head. Tick. Tick. He introduces us to his best friend, Michael (Vien King), an actor turned advertising executive; and girlfriend Susan (Kayla Rivera), a dancer who teaches ballet but wanting to settle down in Cape Cod.

Throughout the play, turning 30 was looming over Jon’s head. In the days leading to his birthday, he would also workshop Superbia, a play that he spent the last five years writing. Michael convinced him to apply for a job at his firm and make use of his talent for music writing commercially so he no longer has to make ends meet with waiting tables. When Michael drove him in his BMW to go to his new apartment in the Upper East Side where he would “No More” have to deal with limited space, bad plumbing, and the general grime of their current situation, Jon finally agreed to go for an interview. 


His anticipation to finally see the realization of his recent years’ work added to his restlessness. Jef’s ability to make a quick change, alternating between Jon and the narrator is a tricky act yet he is able to pull it off without a hitch. His ability to take the audience along in his anxiety while holding the momentum for a near two-hour stretch is nothing short of impressive. Him, Kayla, and Vien, while individually excellent are undeniably more delightful when they all share the stage.

Plot wise, Tick Tick Boom is uneventful save for Jon’s Superbia. This forces us to look closer at what’s going on in the inner workings of his mind, his dynamics with Michael and Susan, and the choices he must make. Jef and Kayla’s highlight is undoubtedly “Therapy,” even besting their performance on the lovers’ more flirtatious number “Green Green Dress.” Another beautiful sequence is “Come to Your Senses” as the centerpiece of Jon’s play and a heart-tugging performance delivered by Kayla.

While he gained positive feedback from his friends and the “interesting people” his agent invited to the reading, nobody wanted to produce Superbia. This fueled his frustration even more and drove him into a confrontation with his bestfriend where he accused Michael of being a sell out and not knowing how it felt like to be afraid of the future. This was a turning point as Michael confessed that he was HIV-positive; Michael maintaining his composure while Jon taking the situation to Central Park and reflecting on their friendship before recollecting himself in the decision that he will spend his life writing.

The ticking of the clock is not just the rhythmic sound for the production but an alarm of discontent with the state of his life. At one point, the boom comes when the apartment collapsed and disoriented the stage set, reflective of Jon’s impending doom. Jon’s birthday is a fitting closing, with his two friends by his side and redemption by a call from his hero Stephen Sondheim.                                                                

9 Works Theatrical’s Tick Tick Boom is an easy watch with an appeal to all kinds audiences regardless of whether they are under or over 30. Relatable to its core, most of the lessons are driven to the point by the songs. With the pandemic taking over the last few years of our lives, it’s not hard to see why Tick Tick Boom’s theme resonates with everyone. It’s not so much a coming-of-age story but one of coming to terms with aging. After all, aging is waiting for the other shoe to drop for the huge part of life is living. 

Tick Tick Boom is running until September 03 at the RCBC Plaza Theater. This review is made possible by Eastern Communications.

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