Hope I Die Before They Get Old
I won't deny it: I hate baby boomers. Not individually-I've had baby boomers in my home, and if I ever get a dinner table, I'm sure I'll even have them over for dinner.But collectively, I hate them because they got to hear the best music, do the best drugs, cherish the most righteous political causes, and lead the most exciting lives a generation of young people has ever led, anywhere-and that was all before 1970. Then, in the '70s, they got to do harder and faster drugs, followed by the '80s and '90s, in which they made tons and tons of money. Now they're primed to run the country: they control the White House and the movie studios, write the TV shows, and publish the magazines. Yet, even with all this influence and success, they're still a bunch of whining, self-obsessed brats.Exhibit A: the musical revue Boomers, which runs through Aug. 30 in Huntington Beach. As a piece of theater, Boomers is lively and funny, and it does a creditable job of condensing some of the key life experiences of the baby-boomer generation into two hours. As a piece of oral history, however, Boomers is awash in unintended irony and a sort of square revisionism that no doubt has the ghosts of Abbie Hoffman, John Lennon and Huey Newton frantically reaching for the nearest ethereal joint. Imagine Easy Rider without the graveyard scene, Woodstock without Altamont, the commune experience without the Manson family.If Boomers were intended to be nothing but a cute nostalgia fest of '60s music, the show's deeper faults could be easily excused. But it's obvious that its creators, Kerry Meads and Vanda Eggington, who wrote the piece for San Diego's Lamb's Players Theatre (which is mounting the show under the auspices of the Pacific Coast Civic Light Opera), intend Boomers to be taken more seriously. After all, it's subtitled "The musical revue of a generation." That's pretty ambitious for a revue, a subgenre of musical theater that usually confines itself to Cole Porter or Andrew Lloyd Webber retrospectives. Because of that ambition-along with the fact that Meads and Eggington up their own ante by creating actual characters to articulate their points-Boomers can't be judged on its entertainment value alone.The piece is loosely constructed around a pedantic university professor (Dorian Elias) teaching a class in boomerology. In between his topical commentary, the six boomers sing and dance their way through a variety of medleys and narrative passages. These range from an embarrassingly silly montage of TV jingles (which had the audience, of course, crowing its delight) and medleys of love songs to some fairly hard-hitting commentary on the race riots of the mid-'60s and the holy trinity of the boomer experience: JFK, Woodstock and Kent State.There are some intriguing ideas tossed around onstage. One character accuses others of protesting Vietnam not out of any real conviction, but because their favorite singer did; another suggests that one of the ongoing themes of the boomers' life has been a frantic effort to mature and an equally terrified struggle to not age and that the boomer generation was the most spoiled American generation. That sense of entitlement not only helps explain the generation's past excesses but also suggests how, in the '90s, the quest for personal and spiritual fulfillment has taken on such a fanatical cast. As one character says, the ultimate failure for a baby boomer is the inability to fulfill himself or herself.Where Boomers goes wrong, however, is that it's guilty of the same self-absorption it occasionally lambastes its characters for. For one thing, to a person, the six boomers onstage are some of the most unhip survivors of the '60s you could imagine. Throughout the play, they continually define themselves by what they were not. One female character who fought for equal rights adds, "I wasn't a feminist" like it's a dirty word. The same goes for the guy who protested the war but wasn't a "radical" or the woman who smoked a lot of pot in college but wasn't "really into drugs." The one character who isn't embarrassed about his past turns out to be the most reactionary of all: although he smoked half of Mendocino and snorted a good portion of Peru in his time, he can't abide the notion that his own child may someday do drugs.This is the same type of myopic bullshit articulated by the "Just Say No" campaign, the sense of denying younger generations the same opportunity to explore, discover and even fuck themselves up. The generation that launched the idea of recreational drug use into the youth culture is now telling its children and grandchildren that drugs ain't cool. For a generation so obsessed by its own history, the boomers in Boomers appear to be unwilling to learn from the '60s and would rather discount them-and unwilling to use the lessons of the past to teach their children that experimentation is healthy but selfish overindulgence isn't.Boomers also displays the selfishness of its namesakes in all the kvetching at show's end about how the baby-boomer generation is the first in American history that won't be as financially secure in retirement as its parents. Forgotten is that the boomers will definitely retire with more money than the average Gen-Xer, and Moloch only knows what the next round of souls (the bunch born after 1983) is going to wind up with.So it's really hard for me to feel sorry for the boomers, especially considering that for the next 20 years, we're going to have their plight rammed down our throats. Soon, the boomers are going to start getting really old, and we're going to be subjected to the most incredible spate of old-folks shit in the history of civilization. Seventy-year-old Steven Spielberg's magnum opus about a bunch of gray panthers saving the world from nuclear holocaust. Magazines devoted to sex after 70. And the final, most undignified stroke, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend leading a chorus of wheelchair-confined rock stars on "My Generation," banging out the rhythm with their prescription bottles:"People try to put us down
Just 'cuz we can't get around
Things they do look awful cold
But it's okay getting old."Boomers at Golden West Main Stage, Gothard St. & Center Dr., Huntington Beach, (714) 895-8150. Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through Aug. 30. $22-$30.
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