Long before the term sandwich generation came to be, playwright Henry Denker touched on the dynamic between three generations – parents, kids and grand parents – in a comedic way. Written in the ‘70s, The Second Time Around explores the generation gap more than any other facet of that relationship.
A 1976 sensibility – not to mention those clothes and those hairstyles – will be on full display next week as the Elmira Theatre Company presents the first of its fall productions.
The story unfolds following the decision by Samuel Jonas, who recently became a widower, and Laura Curtis, herself widowed, to shack up. They seem happy. Their children do not.
Enter Laura’s son Mike Curtis and his wife Eleanor. And Samuel’s daughter Cynthia and her husband, psychiatrist Dr. Arthur Morse. Immediately, there’s something going on between Mike and Cynthia – exactly what that is will unfold through the course of the play, as will Eleanor’s phobias and fixation on her and Mike’s bedroom issues and Arthur’s neuroticism.
Throw in Bruce Morse, Cynthia’s son, a university student, and his girlfriend Angela, and the intergenerational squabbles begin.
Neither Samuel’s nor Laura’s child warm to their parents’ relationship. The kids are shocked to hear their parents plan to live together, arguing they should at least get married for the sake of propriety. It seems, however, that the older couple has essentially maneuvered the situation to be a choice between living together or marriage, forcing the kids to accept that the relationship is a fait accompli.
“The take-away message? Is it a question of morality or manipulation? I would have to say it’s manipulation – the parents getting what they want and bringing the families together,” said Gail Wareing-Tonizzo, who directs the ETC production.
Nobody in this story is completely above judgment, but each has no qualms about judging the others. You know what they say about people in glass houses?
“This is about the things that we discover about ourselves while judging others – it’s definitely a glass houses play,” she laughed.
Though set in 1976, the issues are pretty much timeless. Every generation has its gap. The settings and the times change, but parents and their kids have similar relationship issues from one bunch to the next.
The ‘70s timeframe does, however, provide Wareing-Tonizzo and her cast of eight the opportunity to have some fun with the set and the costumes. The clothing has an eye-grabbing, almost hypnotic look to it – those in the audience who experienced it the first time will have no trouble being transported back to that era. But even the younger theatergoers will relate given the 1970s revival of late – think That ‘70s Show.
And, of course, the generation gap is recognizable to all of us.
“We’re really hitting a wide audience because we’ve got three generations on stage,” she said.
The Elmira Theatre Company production of The Second Time Around runs Sept 11-20, with 8 p.m. shows Thursday-Saturday, and two Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. at 76 Howard Ave., Elmira. Tickets are $18, available at the Centre in the Square box office in Kitchener by calling 578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977.