In Coyote Collective’s Like A Generation, a Friendly Giant-ish children’s TV host learns that his show will be coming to an end. Assisted by his two biggest fans, he uses his final episode to prove that he still matters: that his legacy is worth upholding; that his gentle, nurturing approach still has value; and that he’s ultimately been a force for good in the world.
But those adult fans are no longer the impressionable children they once were, and when they start talking back to Mr. Flowers — bromides about sharing and working hard don’t always cut it in the real world — Generation transforms itself into the darkest and most challenging thing I’ve seen on a Fringe stage this season.
So much of what goes in in Generation is ultimately to do with discovery, renewal, accusation and invitation — which makes it difficult to describe the plot without spoilers. The biggest success of Blue Bigwood-Mallin’s script (the product of years of workshops with his Coyote Collective) is how the story sneaks up behind the audience, delicately establishing rules and structures that all pay off in a huge way once it shifts into high gear at the end. Pay attention: everything matters.
Susannah Mackay’s thwarted dreamer and Eric Welch’s nebbishy sellout embody the best and worst traits of an entire generation — which is a hell of a weight to dump on an actor’s back, right? But the two of them, fully aware of the true scale of this project, pull it off with ease, never too big to be real nor too small to carry the burden.
Bigwood-Mallin, as the host of the show, has lips that seem to be inspired by a Fringe icon and acting chops for days: the whole play turns upon Mr. Flowers as a creature, as a creation, as a symbol and as a presence, but Bigwood-Mallin’s up for the lifting — and as with so much else in this show, what initially may seem superfluous or gratuitous usually comes full circle in a big way.
My greatest frustration with Generation is that large numbers of people won’t get it. It’s a wanky show, a whiny show, further evidence of the self-regard of the self-obsessed selfie generation. It’s so serious and so dark and so, so much else. It’s easy to write off as a hate note, a jealous screed, a cry of impotent rage.
If you recoil at horror at the notion of millennials having grievances, run in the opposite direction. But as a millennial, this show crystallized and shattered much of my worldview. It made me think about myself, and my generation, and the world we’re inheriting, and how much it differs from the world were were promised, and why that might be the case — and who might be responsible.
Dark as tar, to be sure, and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But I have this uncanny feeling that, years from now, I’ll look back on this experience as formative. This play found something within me.
- Like A Generation plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Mature Language, Sexual Content.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Saturday July 2nd, 05:30 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 06:15 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 12:15 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 07:45 pm
- Friday July 8th, 04:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 11:00 pm
Photograph of (L->R) Eric Welch, Blue Bigwood-Mallin & Susannah Mackay by Jordan Laffrenier.