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"Four Minutes Twelve Seconds' by James Fritz

Now onstage in the Extraspace at Tarragon Theatre

Credit: Dahlia Katz. Pictured: Megan Follows and Sergio Di Zio

Joe Szekeres


Tight direction and a masterclass in acting performances. Disturbing.

An absorbing production of character nuance and surprising plot twists, Studio 180 Theatre’s opening night performance of James Fritz’s ‘Four Minutes Twelve Seconds’ elicits nervous laughter at one point and shocked gasps of disbelief the next.

That’s real life for me.

Playwright James Fritz’s Olivier Award-nominated drama is extremely dark and unusually comical. The script contains surprising plot twists that made me do some double takes, as they did to others sitting around me in Tarragon’s Extraspace Theatre. I’m trying my best not to spoil anything about the plot. You must experience this story live.

Given ‘Four Minutes’ has been nominated for an Olivier award, I would have to assume many place references in Fritz’s script are from the UK. Here, the story takes place in Scarborough. These script changes didn’t bother me at all. Fritz’s themes of moral incertitude, consent, injustice, privilege, deception, and the horrific consequences of modern technology remain universal.

The Studio 180 Theatre production becomes an alarming reminder this story can be any parent’s possible worst nightmare in a world of instantaneous feedback to gain online followers.

Dave (Sergio Di Zio) and Di (Megan Follows) are the parents of seventeen-year-old Jack. Jack is a good kid, but like many young adults, he sometimes makes poor choices regarding his actions and friends. The production opens with Di holding a bloodied private schoolboy’s shirt. Jack has been involved in a fight outside the school grounds. This event threatens everything Dave and Diane have strived for with their son, as they only want what is best for him.

Jack is up in his room, afraid to speak with his mother. Having spoken privately to him about what happened, Dave wants to speak to Di about that conversation. With events resulting from this fight spiralling out of control, it appears that Dave and Di may be unable to trust Jack, his closest friends Nick (Tavaree Daniel-Simms), Cara (Jadyn Nasato), or even themselves.

The creative team has made many good choices in staging this North American premiere.

Using Tarragon Theatre’s intimate Extraspace is the first. Jackie Chau’s set design is unchanging but allows the actors to move across the stage effortlessly. The diamond point shape at the apex closest to the audience places us right in the action. Logan Raju Cracknell’s lighting sharply focuses attention where needed. Two spotlit moments highlight Megan Follows beautifully. Lyon Smith has created exciting sound designs to invoke the rising tension.

Mark McGrinder directs with controlled and tight precision. As a parent, he understands young people's actions and what makes them behave as they sometimes do. Every action, reaction, and response by the four characters has a valid reason for occurring. McGrinder exposes the harsh reality of raising a family in the twenty-first century amid virtual reality.

It’s often challenging and complicated.

It’s not pretty.

McGrinder’s awesome cast makes him proud.

As Jack’s friends Nick and Cara, Tavaree Daniel-Simms and Jadyn Nasato remain entirely genuine and convincing as young high schoolers about to graduate. Daniel-Simms’s initial shyness with Di as she comes to speak with him makes the young man appear very likable. He wants to remain neutral and stay out of any trouble himself. I was siding immediately with Nick and became annoyed that Di bothered the young man on his way home from school.

Nasato, as Cara, has more of a direct connection and interest in what has occurred. To put it bluntly, she’s pissed about what has happened; however, that does not give Cara the right to be flippant towards a caring mother who wants to get to the bottom of what happened. There are moments where Cara’s treatment of Di becomes downright disrespectful. Nevertheless, Nasato effectively makes this irreverence work entirely in her favour as the story unfolds further. To explain further is to spoil what happens. Nasato is spot-on in her performance.

Sergio Di Zio’s David is at first puzzling. He and Di don’t seem to be on the same page in raising their teenage son. Di calls David the ‘hippie’ and good-time father who wants his boy to experience what boys do and behave as they usually do. How long has this parental division been going on? Di Zio’s voice and personal stance appear nonchalant as a parental figure compared to his wife, who remains firmly grounded in her view that her son is still a good kid.

Sergio makes this work to his advantage. Masterfully. His pauses and timing as David become stronger and more believable. Even eye-opening as the story continues.

Megan Follows is utterly convincing as Di and is the reason to get tickets to see this production. She rarely leaves the stage and intently focuses on each person with whom she shares the scene. She delivers a remarkable performance as a confused mother and a tad overwhelming wife who learns disturbing truths about her son and husband. Grounded in a fiery and feisty spirit, Follows rears her mama bear temperament with gusto and zeal while never overplaying the emotional peaks and valleys. I walked with her step by step as she climbed that mountain of recognition that perhaps young people in the twenty-first century are not as innocent as they might appear.

And Another Thought: In his Director’s Program Note, McGrinder calls ‘Four Minutes’ a play of questions—troubling questions, human questions.

That becomes abundantly clear in Follows's last unsettling moment on stage, which is disquieting. Her final line delivery and state of mind took my breath away.

Good theatre is supposed to do that.

‘Four Minutes Twelve Seconds’ is exceptionally good theatre.

Running time: approximately 85 minutes with no interval/intermission.

‘Four Minutes Twelve Seconds’ runs until May 12 in the Extraspace at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Avenue. For tickets, call the Box Office at (416) 531-1827 or visit:

STUDIO 180 Theatre in association with Tarragon Theatre present the North American premiere of:
‘Four Minutes Twelve Seconds’ by James Fritz

Directed by Mark McGrinder
Assistant Director: Chantelle Han
Set and Costume Designer: Jackie Chau
Lighting Designer: Logan Raju Cracknell
Sound Designer: Lyon Smith
Stage Manager: Sandi Becker
Production Manager: Charissa Wilcox

Performers: Megan Follows, Sergio Di Zio, Tavaree Daniel-Simms, Jadyn Nasato

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