A feisty barista picks up an uptight number cruncher and winds up in a ménage à trois with him and a clown. Sounds like a typical millennial rom com, but Like a Generation is more interested in why romance fails. The culprit in this case is ADD brought on by the perpetual third wheel in contemporary relationships: television.
Mr Flowers, the clown/kids' tv show host, has a lot invested in Anna and Calvin's romance. As he says, he raised these kids and taught them to read and live. Anna has watched the Mr Flowers Show since she was a child and was inspired into a life of social activism (which didn't quite work out) by the show's cancellation. Calvin was raised on the animated Batman series and Mr Flowers has certain characteristics that are reminiscent of The Joker.
The rom com sections flow nicely with the awkwardness of a first date played for plentiful laughs. Susannah Mackay applies a lot of charm to make an unpleasant character appealing enough to render Eric Welch besotted. Welch is vulnerable and sexy enough to counteract the characters' upwardly mobile hipster affectations, so we care about the romance. But not as much as Mr Flowers.
Stephen Joffe (Freda and Jem's Best of the Week) is a sheer delight as Mr Flowers. He bounces manically from merriment to malevolence without missing, or passing up on, a beat. His assistants/dance crew (Cameron Buttrum, Erin Eldershaw, Jessie Garon and Chin Palipane) don masks, move props and add interpretive physical commentary.
In a television style Like a Generation is afflicted with ADD, it keeps flipping channels. There are projections, video, and scenes that flip in and out of reality, becoming talk shows, monologues and melodrama. Playwright Max Tepper and director Blue Bigwood- Mallen take fragments of life, and of Mr Flowers' after-life, and television programming, and mash them together in a controlled remote control gone haywire.
This all works best when Calvin seduces Anna by finding, in a Netflix and chill moment, an old episode of the Mr Flowers Show. The pair make love, discreetly but enthusiastically, beneath a gray blanket that resembles a circus tarp. The clown assistants can't resist peering under the blanket and reacting with lust, shock, awe and delight. The scene is creepy and erotic and hilarious all at once, and makes Like a Generation's main theme vividly real.
Because Like a Generation is deliberately disjointed it runs the same risk television does of losing attention. There are also a few dangling ideas that seem left over from previous workshops and that undercuts what is otherwise a streamlined and eventually cohering play. The technology is tight but if it were more overwhelming when it needs to be, the contrast with the intimate scenes would be starker and the emotions writ bigger.
But no matter, there is a clown. Mr Flowers is ready to paper over any holes, mug to keep us engaged, apply lipstick smiles, spread his emotions wide while revealing nothing but greasepaint. Anna checks her make-up while Calvin makes breakfast and it becomes inevitable that they will break up. Mr Flowers scrubs off his greasepaint armour, changes the channel and Like a Generation is over and life goes on.
Like a Generation runs until Sun, Sept 27 at Dancemaker's Main Space Studio, 9 Trinity St, Studio 313 (in the Distillery District). coyotecollectivetheatre.com