Second City is back at it again with Second City’s Generation Gap…or How Many Millennials Does it Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X?, now invading the Kennedy Center to help DC pass what will likely be another hot-under-the-collar kinda summer with levity and laughter. This time, they’ve got something to say about the gulf splitting the my-God-won’t-their-archaic-ideas-ever-die-off Baby Boomers and the I-may-be-entitled-but-I’m-smart-snarky-and-tech-savvy millennials. Generation X is somewhere in there, still just falling through the crack.
Of course, Second City offers wisdom to bridge the divide: be kind. Positive. And remember, we have more in common than not. That doesn’t stop them from skewering our age-induced ridiculousness through dance club flashes (80s night, 90s night, and 2000s night), subtle digs at the current state of affairs (immigration, deportation), and sketches on the timeless dread of kids everywhere—your parents’ sex life.
The ensemble is a mix of young and old faces: Maureen Boughey, Frank Caeti, Cody Dove, Asia Martin, Evan Mills, and Holly Walker. Caeti, who’s been here before (Second City’s Twist Your Dickens), is a veteran that proves to be the power player—explaining baseball as if it were a Shakespearean poem— though each ensemble member shines in certain moments. Especially Walker and Mills, who bring-in some spunky fun characters.
Boughey’s got some great moments in a set of related scenes and as a horny mom. Dove, often playing low-key, under-the-radar types with understated wit, emcees the “Mind the Generation Gap” game show, wherein an audience member hops on stage to complete ninja-esque challenges such as dialing a rotary phone. He’s also the resident dad, turning in pitch-perfect takes on drinking-dad, dad-joke-dad, and stepdad-in-training—sparring with Mills’ bratty saboteur in the latter via “Dance Dance Revolution.” Mills also shows off his ability to sway and wiggle his physique in mysterious ways. You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean. But, trust me. It’s impressive.
Second City’s Generation Gap
closes August 12, 2018
Details and tickets
The whole ensemble flows through an entire life, showing one woman’s (Martin) journey from childhood to death while Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” plays. Martin is as cool as a cucumber, an emotionless participant fixated on her phone as milestones pass without even a glance up. We all do as we are taught, and the obsessive phone mongering is not new. My mom, too—like the opening of the sequence—spent inordinate amounts of time chatting away on a cordless when that was a thing.
Millennials shouldn’t catch so much flack. In one of the darkest (and still funny) pieces, we are reminded that society reaps what it sows. Carrying that theme Caeti, Walker, and Dove do a family dinner at a restaurant, where Walker melts into an obnoxious mother who rears a similar son. Walker is like a chameleon.
Here are my few issues that marked this review down a star: this ensemble seems to not be as strong a group as years past (this is the third Second City summer fare I have reviewed). First, their energy ran just under the boiling point. Second, they missed the mark on some of the pure improv scenes. Third, the narrative thread suffered as a result of both, making it less a gut punch and more a light slap. I mean, didn’t we already know that generation gaps bring a sense of discordance between young and old? And, can’t the show encourage us to do more beyond being positive, to challenge the up-and-comers to be better? Smarter? There are hints of that (like shout-outs to Twitter’s role in the Arab Spring and school walk-outs on gun control). But I didn’t feel moved to action. And, I think the best comedy does that.
Still, these things can be remedied by the next show, and I chalk them up to an off night. That said, an off night with Second City is like being at the best French-fare restaurant in the world and ordering ravioli rather than its famed coq au vin. It’s still good—better than if you got it elsewhere—but probably not as awesome as the chicken. So, take everything with a grain of salt (pun not intended).
Of course, there are great, and all too true, zingers—like Baby Boomers growing up when “men were men and women were quiet” who are now “trying [their] best to keep up and when [they] can’t, calling it fake news.” Or, “How many white people does it take to build a Whole Foods? Zero.” Ouch. Gentrification. Immigrant labor. A past-his-prime President. Nothing is safe. There’s also a lot of songs and songs on the fly—such as “Tim the Ballplayer”—that made up for other improv fails. And this ensemble, like the other Second City troupes that have graced DC, astutely observes society, sub-societies, and DC itself—noting Hamilton’s grip on the local theatre-going community, and, as always, goading us to let our latent love for Shear Madness break free.
Second City has another show coming to DC, SHE The People at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in December.
Second City’s Generation Gap…or How Many Millennials Does it Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X? may not have hit me the same way other productions have, but it’s still a nice slice of funny. And, the great thing about improv? The next show could be a blow-you-out-the-water revelation. So, maybe see it twice.
Second City’s Generation Gap…or How Many Millennials Does it Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X? . Directed by Anthony LeBlanc. Created by Asia Martin. Written by Carisa Barreca, Asia Martin, Jay Steigmann, Jamison Webb, and the Casts of the Second City. Featuring Maureen Boughey, Asia Martin, Frank Caeti, Evan Mills, Coy Dove, and Holly Walker. Production: Nick Gage, Music Director; Bob Knuth, Scenic Designer; Mary Keegan, Lighting Designer; Jessi Sheehan, Wardrobe Stylist; and Julie B. Nichols, Original Music. Produced by Second City Theatricals. Stage Managed by Bekah Wachenfeld. Produced by Second City . Presented by The Kennedy Center . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.