By Morgan Politzer
As millennials, we are stuck somewhere in the middle of history – we remember a time before widespread personal technology, but it was introduced to us early enough in our lives that it has since become second nature.
“Generation Gap…Or, How Many Millennials Does It Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X?” confronts this in-between place head-on in a satirical, sketch comedy-style crash course on all things post-2000.
Produced for Kennedy Center audiences, “Generation Gap…Or, How Many Millennials Does It Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X?” was created by Chicago comedy institution The Second City and directed by Anthony LeBlanc.
Performed by only six actors (Maureen Boughey, Frank Caeti, Cody Dove, Asia Martin, Evan Mills, Holly Walker) of varying ages, “Generation Gap” is a satirical take on the millennial stereotype and the world of digital connectivity. While in part a theatrical performance, the production is more prominently a piece of social commentary, cleverly disguised with subtle and fast-paced humor and well-hidden in quippy and surprising sketches.
The production highlights the stereotypes of different generations, and emphasizes how they are not limited to just one group, but rather are a learned behavior. The production particularly focuses on the commonly-made claim that millennials pay too much attention to their electronic devices and online presence. And yet, the adults making this claim are often guilty of this habit as well, demonstrating the impact of learned behavior and the result of giving young children electronics as a source of entertainment.
While the production is clever and well written, the first few minutes are mildly cringeworthy, confusing and jumbled as some of the jokes fall flat. However, as the show progresses, it manages to take issues facing young people today and wrap them in humor, making them easier to swallow. A portion of the sketches take place 50 years in the future, and “retrospectively” make a mockery of things we believe to be normal, revealing the ridiculousness we have grown to ignore in things like Tinder and playing sports via game console.
The second half of the production is snappier than the first, with new topics and social trends that are inevitable with the rise of technology. Each actor easily slips in and out of multiple roles across sketches as their characters grapple with social media addiction and the prevalence of oversharing, as well as the loss of self-worth that comes with the nervous anticipation of watching those three dots, waiting to see how long it takes someone to respond to a message.
While much of the production focuses on this issue of old versus new and the problems that have risen in recent years, it also highlights issues on a larger scale, including sexual harassment and the current social and political climate, all masked behind clever digs and punchy one-liners.
Bursts of improvisational acting and audience participation effectively break up the pattern of comedy sketches and give audience members an opportunity to prove the stereotypes presented on stage before them either right or wrong in The Generation Gap game show, bringing fresh dialogue and a new perspective to the piece.
New and unexpected hilarity ensued as the older participants struggled to identify Tinder, emojis, and Queen Bey herself, while younger participants effortlessly glided through discussions of rotary phones, Elizabeth Taylor and an analog clock.
Intentional or not, this exercise revealed the need to ask an important question: while younger generations learn about what is considered “old,” or “outdated,” is it less common for Baby Boomers to be educated on topics that are common knowledge for a Millennial or a member of Generation Z? And is this trend because the younger generations believe these things are vintage and exciting? Because we want to prove wrong those that say history and hard work is lost on the young? Or is it because we ourselves are not as lost and disconnected as we may be perceived to be?
This debate over technology and constant connectivity is particularly highlighted in sketches between Mills and Walker. As Mills’ character teaches his grandmother how to use Twitter, she learns the deeper truth about the impact her voice can have once she is given a means to share it.
In recent years, young voices have seized the opportunity granted by social media and have come together to fight for their right to be heard. Age and location is no longer an inhibitor to change, as social media has become one of the largest platforms for the sharing and spreading of ideas.
In this fast-paced blend of comedy and theater, audiences are taken on a journey through time as the actors explore the trials and tribulations that will forever follow the differences in the generation gap, and prove that the gap may be smaller than we thought.
“Generation Gap…Or, How Many Millennials Does It Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X?” will run at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through August 12.
Featured Photo Credit: Lauren Holland
Morgan Politzer is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.