BWW Review: The Second City's GENERATION GAP at Kennedy Center

BWW Review: The Second City's GENERATION GAP at Kennedy Center

The unseen announcer consoles "You probably wish you were at 'Hamilton,'" the juggernaut playing elsewhere in the building.

But at the start of the second act of the new show at the Kennedy Center, there is a more pointed reference to the specific space, for those who inadvertently thought they were coming to see "Shear Madness."

That comedy has been playing at the Kennedy Center's Lab Theater pretty much nonstop since 1987 - one of the longest running plays in American theater history. But for the past few years, it's been given a summer break so Second City can take over.

This year the gift Second City brings is not only the reprise from the beauty shop farce but a break from the political humor that has dominated their last two summer stints, "The Second City's A'most Accurate Guide to America," and its sequel "Divided We Stand."

Certainly, there continues to no lack of material for satire in D.C. by the hour, but there's a lot to be said about getting away from the surrounding chaos altogether for a brief psychological breather.

Therefore, this summer's installment has a more benign topic to which most can relate, "The Second City's Generation Gap ... Or, How Many Millennials Does It Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X?" Early audiences seem to have a healthy mix of parents and grown kids willing to laugh at themselves and especially the other.

As such, it's a fast moving set of sketches on the topic, mixed with the slightest sprinkling of improvisation that has defined the comedy group.

More than that, it's a sweet homecoming for Asia Martin, a D.C. native and Duke Ellington School of the Arts grad who is listed as creator and a writer of the show, along with being one of the talented six in the ensemble.

Second City has been an incubator for comic talent for decades and in fact, the first time the company came to the Kennedy Center in 1996, Steve Carrell, Tim Meadows and Adam McKay were part of the troupe.

There may be any number of future stars in the current shows including one who is familiar from her work on "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" where she was writer and performer, Holly Walker. She's just 50 but has to take on all the grandma roles in the sketches. She's pretty good at it, though, and she's versatile enough to take on any age group she's assigned.

Another standout is Frank Caeti who has one of those crazy genes in him, able to play everything from a mischievous toddler and an addled adult.

Evan Mills has the skills of a dancer to impersonate the moves of everything from a jellyfish to a car dealership's inflatable dancing tube, but he's also the best bitchy millennial onliner, trying to teach his grandma (Walker of course) the ropes of social media.

Maureen Boughey and Cody Dove fill in a lot of roles as the normal people who are all the funnier when they go beyond those preconceived boundaries.

As for audience participation, a millennial and a boomer are pulled from the audience to take part in a Generation Gap game show that shows how much they know about the other generation. (In this performance, a kid found his way around a rotary phone, while an older woman couldn't recognize rap stars, emoji meanings, Tinder protocol or Beyonce songs).

In general, there may have been a bit too many Tinder jokes - is that really how we define a generation? But one of the funniest bits is when a couple who met on the app tell their kids about it in the future, at their 30th anniversary party (and they are considerably grossed out).

Things are loose enough that they can throw in up-to-the-minute commentary. It had just been hours since Milania Trump wore her tone deaf jacket, and they had a snappy line about it ("She's teaming with Zara to start a Marie Antoinette line").

At one point the troupe asks for suggestions for items or issues to inhabit a Smithsonian exhibit a half century from now looking back at our era. More successful was a song they seemed to make up on the spot about a man in the audience and his profession. Perhaps there have been a lot of lawyers named Tom in previous shows, but it was the one point that showed off their highly-honed skills in improv as being something close to magic.

As loose as they're allowed to be, Mary Keegan's lighting was spot-on, particularly with the pinpoint lights that started the show with super-quick individual intros.

"Generation Gap" had less of the cruder material one could expect from comedy these days, making it a safe zone for parents and their teens and up to attend. And best of all for everyone, hardly any politics.

No, it's no "Hamilton." But it won't make you miss "Shear Madness" either.

While in town, by the way, the troupe holds three workshops for all skill levels July 21-22 -- "Intro to Improv Fundamentals," "Character Generator" and "So You Want to Try Stand-Up."

Running time: Approximately 90 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.

Photo credit: Top, left to right, Frank Caeti, Asia Martin, Maureen Boughey. Bottom: Holly Walker, Evan Mills, Cody Dove. Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.

"The Second City's Generation Gap ... Or, How Many Millennials Does It Take to Teach a Baby Boomer to Text Generation X?" continues through Aug. 12 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. Tickets at 202-467-4600 or online.

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From This Author Roger Catlin

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