Theatre review: Us & Everything We Own attempts to redefine a generation

For some reason every generation thinks those before had it easier.

In Sean Minogue’s new play Us & Everything We Own, currently on stage at the PAL Theatre, he sets out to explore the barriers his millennial generation has in getting ahead in life.  Placing his characters in present-day Vancouver, Minogue attempts to raise the debate beyond the “generation me” attitude that is often associated with millenials by exploring the obstacles we place on ourselves that prevent success, but instead ends up reinforcing some of the very generational stereotypes he had hoped to dispel.

Full disclosure: it may been a few years since I was a twenty something myself, but not so long that I can’t remember what it was like to be that age.  I lived through the recession of the 80s, with its astronomical interest rates and inflation.  As a long-time Vancouver resident, I also know that Vancouver is expensive and we have this weird obsession with coffee.  I get it, but this is nothing new. Each generation must face obstacles that may be unprecedented in the one before; it is in how they decide to deal with those obstacles that defines them.  In Us & Everything We Own we skip along so superficially and predictably that there is little tension and we are relegated to being simple observers of some rather uninteresting lives.

More than a look at the millennial lot in life, by his very title Minogue also makes it clear that he intends on exploring our society’s obsession with things, fame and an incessant desire for instant gratification. Again though there is little time spent digging any deeper and Minogue adds nothing new to our obsession with keeping up with Joneses.

Requiring a natural delivery, as the young couple that are not always on the same page, Adam Lolacher and Julie McIsaac are spot-on here.  It is also a testament to Minogue’s ability to write realistic dialogue.  In contrast though is the young brother Simon, played by Jason Clift.  While Clift appears to be having a great deal of fun as the naive young man with an obsession with watching rather than making films, he is written more like a one-dimensional sitcom character.

There is an interesting dark subtext that seems to play just below the surface of Erin, but Minogue never seems to want to go there, ultimately making Genevieve Fleming’s characterization the most unrealistic. Like the characters in his play I kept hoping for something more here, hoping he might reveal more than the fact she made a bunch of cash and then subsequently lost it during the dot.com bubble.

Adam Lolacher and Julie McIsaac in a scene from Us & Everything We Own. Photo by Emily Cooper.
Adam Lolacher and Julie McIsaac in a scene from Us & Everything We Own. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Where in his 2011 play Prodigals Minogue was so successful in exploring 20-something angst that it made our best-of theatre list that year, even as he asserts Us & Everything We Own is about an internal struggle, his characters tend towards whining about how they’ve somehow been dealt a bad lot and how everyone is standing in their way to success.  Ultimately it fails in helping redefine a generation and with so many characters feeling sorry for themselves, the play could have just as easily been called Us & Everything We Moan.

2 1/2 of 5 Stars Us & Everything We Own

By Sean Minogue.  Directed by Sabring Evertt.  A Twenty Something Theatre Company production.  On stage at the PAL Theatre through April 13, 2013.  Visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com for tickets and information.

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