A father picks up three young teenagers from school. As they chat in the back seat, he attempts to join the conversation — only to be met with stares and sullen silence.
“He’s trying a little too hard to engage, when really the man is on the cusp of becoming irrelevant except when food, money or shelter is involved,” San Luis Obispo playwright Michael Kaplan said.
If that scenario sounds familiar, you might be the target audience for “We’re Canceling Cable! (and other empty threats),” premiering Friday as part of San Luis Obispo Little Theatre’s After Hours series. Directed by Jill Turnbow and written by Kaplan, with original music by San Luis Obispo composer Mark Pietri, it’s a collection of sketches, monologues and songs all centered on the subject of modern parenting.
The show stars Nathan Emmons, Gregory Gorrindo, Katie Gucik and Alicia Klein.
Kaplan, whose television writing credits include “Go Fish” and “Stargate SG-1,” saw the premiere of his play “Love Town” at the Pewter Plough Playhouse in Cambria in 2009. His work will also be familiar to fans of two monthly performance series: No Shame Theatre at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre and SLOlio: A Gathering of True Stories at Linnaea’s, held at Linnaea’s Café in San Luis Obispo.
Kaplan first performed one of the monologues featured in “We’re Canceling Cable!” — in which a father talks to his children about drugs — at No Shame Theatre in November 2013.
“When the show was over at midnight, a woman came up to me and said, ‘That was great. Who are you?’ and it was Jill (Turnbow),” the playwright said.
“I was just really struck by this (show) because it makes me laugh,” said Turnbow, a Cambria resident. “I’ve wanted to direct since the first time I read it.”
“We’re Canceling Cable!” deals with situations and subjects familiar to many a harried mother, father, teacher or coach. (Kaplan also throws in a non-parenting monologue, the self-explanatory “My Stupid Cholesterol,” for good measure.)
“This is the kind of thing that parents will relate to,” said Kaplan, who speaks from personal experience. He’s the father of 19-year-old Leah, who attends Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and 16-year-old Nathan, who goes to San Luis Obispo High School.
Take one of the first pieces Kaplan wrote for “We’re Canceling Cable!” — titled “How to Argue with a 12-Year-Old.”
“At that age, my daughter, who is very bright, was also fiercely argumentative,” the writer recalled. “I would get locked into these back-and-forth arguments with her. My wife would take me aside and ask (me), ‘Why are you doing this? You are the parent.’ ”
“When I was able to step aside and see how somewhat insane I was being,” Kaplan added, “I was able to … write this sketch.”
Another topic tackled in “We’re Canceling Cable!” is the vicious, volatile world of youth sports.
“It has the potential to bring out the worst in people, particularly dads,” he said, because they connect their children’s performance with their own “legacy moments.” “They feel represented by what the kids are out on the field doing.”
Kaplan himself served as an assistant coach for his son’s baseball team.
“I suddenly realized that I had nothing of value to tell them,” he joked. “I had no wisdom to impart.”
Although “We’re Canceling Cable!” is written with parents in mind, Turnbow said it’s sure to appeal to audience members without children as well.
“It’s certainly a fun, entertaining, really funny show,” she said.
"We’re Canceling Cable! (and other empty threats)"
9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday; through Jan. 25
San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, 888 Morro St., San Luis Obispo
786-2440 or www.slolittletheatre.org