Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Old, New Clash in "Generation"

Cleveland Press March 14, 1967

You wouldn't think that boiling water while waiting for the birth of a baby would serve anymore as a comic device in a first-rate comedy. You would cynically point out that the boiling water bit had been done to death in old grade B movies. Confess it. That's just what you'd say.

But that's only because you haven't watched Don Porter as a grandfather -- to-be plaintively asking the why of the boiled water routine as he is shunted to one side.

It's because you haven't seen him floundering among those steaming pots, convinced that if anything goes wrong in that other room where his daughter is delivering a baby everyone will blame him for boiling the water wrong.

"Generation" is not a slapstick show by any means. It is a comedy based on a warm and wry look at human nature. For all of the conflict between the two generations, playwright William Goodhart never loses sight of the underlying affection that exists between them as well.

AS FOR PLOT, it is a single-situation show that seldom strays from that one situation and remains best when it doesn't.

Porter plays the role of a Chicago advertising executive just arrived in New York to visit his newly-married daughter (Charlotte Glenn) and her beatnik husband (John Luce) in their Greenich Village apartment.

Newly married she may be but she also is nine months pregnant. Porter tries. Oh, how hard he does try to understand. He's an old liberal himself, but not quite that liberal.

HE SHUDDERS VISIBLY but tries to adjust -- to the situation, to the hovel of an apartment, to the homemade furniture, to his son-in-law's violent attacks on society and the establishment, to the kids refusal to be helped.

But he balks, finally. It's OK if this long-haired poet, photographer and guitar strummer hates the medical establishment too; but insistence on natural childbirth with the new father serving as a do-it-yourself doctor is just too much.

To his daughter it is a glorious experience and if her father interferes she will never speak to him. To the fired old man, growing more tired by the minute, it is a matter of a father's natural concern for the safety of his daughter.

ALONG THE WAY HE SMUGGLES IN an old Army buddy who is an obstetrician, expertly played by Jerome Cowan. There are also a public relations oriented lawyer and a magazine editor, funny but a little out of tune with. the rest of the play.

Goodhart probes no philosophical depths in "Generation" but he understands people (even if he does have a tin ear for public relations cliches).

He understands the friction between a young innocent, too ignorant to know there's dirty work afoot but who can smell it everywhere; and a man who is that young innocent 20 years late, a trifle chagrined at the compromises he has made.

It is not a matter of difference but distance; the distance between go-it-alone youth and hopelessly involved old age. And with it all the hope that a newer generation will close the gap.