The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Generation ME
Organization Flying Monkey Productions
Date(s) of show April 4 - April 13, 2014
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review Generation ME, from Flying Monkey Productions, was a mind-blowing, eye-opening experience for me – unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Presenting it in the intimate, 200-seat City Studio Theater at Harris Center, with the audience so close to the players, gave it an extra boost of intensity.

This production company has been completely under my radar, though they have obviously been operating for many years. What makes them distinctive is that they give students “the opportunity to engage in all aspects of theatre production.” And “For all productions, the duties of director, vocal director, choreographer, stage manager, costume designer, set designer, and prop master are performed by teens and young adults.” Checking their website (, you can see that they have produced mostly well-known musicals since 2003. Generation ME is different. As the young playwright and lyricist, Julie Solo, explains in her “Author’s Note” in the program, “After working with ridiculously talented teen singers, actors, and dancers for the past five years, it became clear that they were ready to be challenged” – with the age-appropriate roles of this remarkable musical.

The seed for all the action is the suicide of the principal character and that takes place very early in this 3-1/2-hour event. But don’t worry, much of the time is spent in flashback, so we are offered many insights into the possible causes of the suicide – as well as its aftermath. But it seems to me that most of this play is simply an exploration of what it’s like to be a teenager in this era, and it’s a tribute to the author that there is a wide variety of character types and a deep drawing of most of them. The action is fast-paced, and the show sizzles with energy, both in the acting and in the writing. There are some principal roles, but I wouldn’t consider any of the 20+ characters “minor.”

The whole experience felt “real” to me – sometimes too real, with representations of drug use, rape, destructive behavior, explicit language, and other details that would earn this show a warning for parents of younger children. But as someone who left high school behind many decades ago, I was fascinated by this look into the lives of current teenagers, though sometimes I felt more like a voyeur than an audience member. The plot seems dense at times, but that’s to the author’s credit: relationships are complicated and this show presents them as many-faceted and constantly evolving. The characters learn profound lessons, and so do we in the audience.

But don’t get me wrong, this show overflows with positive energy and humor. For one thing, I found many of the lyrics wonderfully witty (as for example in “The Bra Song” performed by two of the young men). Laughs abound throughout the show. And there are interesting set and staging ideas in the small performance space. In fact, the whole show brims with creativity. And the scene right before intermission is so unexpected, so over-the-top that it left me smiling in amazement, and I’m sure I will never, never forget it.

I was constantly impressed with the talent of the performers. There is strong singing – both individually and as an ensemble, and a bit of interesting dancing. But the acting is simply excellent. And whether they are portraying exuberance or profound sorrow, I couldn’t help but imagine that these young actors were feeling the emotions of their character at a deep level. So many of them deliver outstanding performances, and I wish I had space to acknowledge each of them. But I can’t resist mentioning Liam O’Donnell, who plays the character who committed suicide. I was haunted by his brooding persona throughout the show because he reminded me so strongly of someone I had seen before. Eventually, I realized that it was the same calm intensity that I associate with so many roles played by Kevin Spacey.

There is no question in my mind that I would like to see this show again: there is so much to it that I’m sure I would pick up details in a second viewing that blew past me in my wide-eyed first experience. It’s such a pity that it was only scheduled for a two-weekend run. But I’m sure it will return – somewhere – and you owe it to yourself to experience this bit of contemporary brilliance. The author announced in her introductory remarks that they have been accepted to participate in the Hollywood Fringe Festival (June 12-29), and the company is trying to raise money for the trip south. So maybe you can catch them there: it would almost be worth the personal travel costs.

 Reviews Home    Organizations    Shows