Monday, July 9, 2012

Fringe 2012 Review: Tick

“It’s a little too much ‘kids being kids,’ formless and playing around on stage,” my show-watching companion said, quietly, upon leaving Tick (by Matthew MacKenzie). He wasn’t entirely right, but he wasn't entirely wrong either. Tick is a very entertaining show, and MacKenzie captures the voices of kids admirably and accurately, which is difficult to do. This means, however, that Tick reminds us of both the best and worst of kids; they are hilarious, ever-surprising, idealistic, inventive and full of boundless creative energy, but they also tend to whine, be overly loud, catastrophize, and have no idea when to stop (or stop repeating a joke).

Ten-year-old Tickailia Summers, or “Tick” (the captivating Jessica Moss), is a young dynamo hell-bent on getting under your skin. She is also asthmatic, and allergic to 67 different known things, living life on the edge every day. She’s incensed that her mother’s boyfriend, city councilor Murray (Nathan Barrett), is getting rid of the books in her library, replacing them with chained E-Readers with 15-minute reading time limits.  Tick plans a children’s revolution for the not-yet-enfranchised age group, attempting to unite the kids from the wrong side of the tracks with her friends; solar eclipse-obsessed Rudeger (Tony Ofori), hockey-loving Dawn (Jenna Harris), and general dance fiend and space case Chelsea (also Barrett), all of which are refreshingly non-gender-or-racially-stereotyped. Also on Tick’s side are some spiritual revolutionary allies whose identities I won’t specify. Trying to get Tick to see the “grown-up” side of the issue are the supercilious Murray, Tick’s mother (Harris, appealingly stern but loving), and elderly neighbour Mr. Emeline (Ofori), who traps squirrels, teaches Tick knitting to her chagrin, and believes society takes too much for granted.

Precocious Tick is very funny, chock-full of references and language beyond her years and her friends’ comprehension, tantrums, pouting, dance moves and war councils and rhetoric. The author does a decent job of showing us the “other side” of the issue, though there is a clear “wrong” side. It’s nice to see Tick as a flawed hero, so that the issue doesn’t become too preachy; very much a child, she blows everything up to the most straw-filled of straw man proportions, refuses any attempt to see eye-to-eye, abuses her friends, and throws tantrums equally at the destruction of the library and being forced to eat the same thing for dinner two days in a row. Though she has a strong point (and a relevant one, based on recent attempts in this city to “take on” libraries), we also understand why it is extremely difficult to let children be part of the democratic process.

Tick is about children, and so it is perhaps necessarily loud and brash, but overall there is really too much mugging from the actors; this is especially true when the play’s strong suit is the part where we actually feel for and listen to the characters, in the moments of quiet, whether found in happiness or disappointment.  This could be a comment on our current political discourse; nothing gets done when everyone is screaming and divisive. However, it is also a patience-thinner when most moments are played for MAXIMUM LOUDNESS AND INTENSITY; though we need the loud moments to appreciate the quiet ones, we need something in between to appreciate the loudness.

Tick should probably be an hour-long show; at 75 minutes, it feels padded, particularly as one of the Fringe’s few hour-plus-long slots. A particular endless celebratory dance sequence is eerily reminiscent of the ending of various Dreamworks movies, such as Shrek: The Shrekiest, where instead of a real ending, fairy-tale creatures drop whatever they’re doing and dance to a modern pop song for desperate added cool cred and ironic relevance. Of course, this doesn’t entirely describe Tick, as it’s not calculated; it’s guileless and joyful and sweet. But, as the character of Tick slowly comes to learn over the course of the piece, seemingly as part of its point, and as a mother might say to her screaming ten-year-old (as stuffy and stifling as it might make this reviewer sound): “Indoor voice, honey. If they have to strain to hear you sometimes, they’ll listen harder.”



  1. I really loved this show, and I have to say I find your review a little dismissive. Most of these reviews just seem as if going to see these shows is beneath you: this is the fringe, there should be little ego involved. That said, this show clearly had a lot of work put into it. While it might not be work you appreciate, this idea that this is just 'mugging' or 'formless kids being kids' is not at all the case. There's a style here, and even if you didn't like it, I think you could respect it. Also, those performers are knockouts....this is the highest energy show of the fringe, and you give them absolutely no credit. In reading these reviews, there seems to be no love of theatre from you. So why bother?

    1. I'm sorry we disagreed about some of the choices that were made in the show; I appreciated the energy, it was just slightly too much for me, I'm afraid. If you'll notice, I actually liked it; I called it "entertaining," that the author captures kids "admirably and accurately," it's "hilarious, ever-surprising, idealistic, inventive and full of boundless creative energy" "refreshingly non-gender-or-racially-stereotyped" "guileless and joyful and sweet" with a "strong point" and called the actress playing Tick "a dynamo" who is "very funny" and Harris "appealingly stern but loving." All of these could be pretty great advertising quotations, and I meant every one.

      I admit that as a writer I spend more time on writing than I do on acting, but that's just my style. I find that people tend to be disturbed by reviews that point out both positives and negatives and ignore one side or the other. As a dramaturg, I try to consider both sides of every play, which is why I will rarely have a review that's completely free of constructive criticism. I'll admit that quoting a friend was perhaps not the best way to start, Because while I believe he had a point (not entirely wrong), I don't think he was entirely right, either. I'll amend the review to make that more clear. It's hard to produce so many reviews so quickly!

      In any case, thank you for reading my blog, even if you don't like what I have to say. I'd be very happy to have a conversation about it!

  2. (OK, I know that as soon as you see the author of this, you will say:"Oh No, she's opening her big mouth again, butting in where she has no business being," but I cannot remain silent after reading the above -Kirz :-)

    Okay, both of you guys, i.e.: "Anonymous" (yeah, I know exactly who you are!) and you: Ms. Fairylane

    "Anonymous": There is an old saying that comes to mind: "If'fn you can't take the heat, GET OUT OF THE G-D DAMNED KITCHEN!" You're a playwright, your job is to write plays that people want to see! You will NEVER please all of the people all of the time, but that said, there is
    ALWAYS room for improvement, no one has ever written the perfect play since Aesculus and I doubt what has come down to us of his, is un-redacted! Ilana doesn't know who the H*ll you are or how hard you work, all she knows and see's is from the viewpoint of an audience participant. She, as well as everyone else out there in the theater, know NOTHING about the work and effort and feelings of YOU and the actors and the stage-hands etc... Wise-up and learn something and make your work BETTER, rather than complain about what 'You Think' the viewers of your work should see. Don't be so thin-skinned about your "baby", it's part of the job honey!
    You should have "Known the job was dangerous when you took it" -Superchicken
    And another thing - You don't learn anything from those who say:"Its fine, brilliant, fantastic, perfect etc... etc...
    the one's who care, those who want you to succeed are the ones who will TEAR YOUR WORK APART MERCILESSLY, criticize and critique every little last thing, until you learn to write awesome and amazing! These are the guys who you can learn from, who will get you to the top. Shut up and listen and learn something.

    Ilana dear: You do not have to apologize for ANYTHING! You are probably the most qualified, most highly trained, closest thing to CERTIFICATION (if there was such a thing) in Theatre criticism that I think exists in ONTARIO, CANADA.
    Your reviews are brilliant, well thought out, concise and clearly logical analysis of WHAT YOU SEE on the stage. When you comment on your personal reactions to things you see and hear, YOU LABEL IT FORTHRIGHT as such! You are precise and always criticize from the viewpoint of "MAKING IT BETTER" and not to 'put down' or revile the playwright!
    Dare I say it:You are the most evenhanded reviewer I have seen yet at Fringe productions.
    Indeed, compared to what I have seen written up in TORONTO NOW, the Globe and Mail, etc... yours are far far superior, fair, and informative. The fact that you can bang these amazing reviews out so quickly, in addition to your regular "day jobs" and other time consuming activities is in my mind, something close to miraculous. But if you can make "Dean's Date" and survive with your sanity intact (subtle hint at your qualifications for the job - here) you can do anything with confidence that you are very well qualified for doing this. And remember, you are a DRAMATURG and not a Cheerleader! (leave that job to those of us qualified and trained to do this - subtle dig at myself :-) I just wish that you were able to review ALL the productions at Fringe...

    -Kirz A.K.A. Freekofnature