New York | Previews start Oct 18

Happy Birthday, Wanda June

92 Members say: Great acting, Relevant, Funny, Clever, Thought-provoking
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About the show

2h 0m | Previews start Oct 18 | The Duke on 42nd Street (Midtown W)

Wheelhouse Theater Company offers a return engagement of famed novelist Kurt Vonnegut's rarely produced satire. A searing and darkly comedic look at American culture. More…

After being presumed dead for eight years, respected war veteran and big game hunter Harold Ryan returns home. He brings with him an old way of thinking, celebrating a Hemingway-esque machismo and American exceptionalism. Harold soon discovers that the society he returns to has made attempts to progress into a more modern, enlightened cultural narrative. 'Happy Birthday, Wanda June' is a dynamic and often comic meditation on toxic masculinity and a capitalistic America's failed attempts at progress cloaked in honor and morality.


90
Show Showdown

for a previous production "If there is an afterlife, I hope Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., has had the opportunity to look down and watch the Wheelhouse Theater Company's excellent production of his hilarious, incisive farce...directed with vitality, creativity, and respect...O'Connell manages all of Harold's dimensions in a tour de force performance...MacCluggage is every bit as good....A delayed-release show, where you laugh non-stop while watching it yet remain genuinely moved by it afterward." Full Review

90
Show Showdown

for a previous production "Must a strange, dusty old piece that so efficiently bottled the darkness of the edgy, moody past have to be so damned apt again? I suppose if it must, it might as well be really, really well done, and this production sure is...It zeroes in so brilliantly on some of the republic's most tender bruises...Very frequently hilarious...It's also exceptionally acted...'Wanda June' left me in the most curious state of simultaneous elation and melancholy, but the joy outlasted the sorrow." Full Review

85
The New York Times

for a previous production "Vonnegut Jr.’s shaggy but zingingly relevant comedy now getting a ferociously funny revival...As Jason O’Connell proves in a hilarious and explosive performance as Harold, the cult of masculinity that Vonnegut lampooned is still with us, absurd and menacing and terribly, terribly vain...This is quite a departure, and quite a star turn...In the final act, there’s a scene whose resonance now Vonnegut couldn’t possibly have imagined." Full Review

85
Manhattan Digest

for a previous production "This darkly comic, often absurd and evocative play keeps the laughs coming while never letting its audience forget the bitter and ugly disparity between old-world misogynist machismo and new-age enlightened, sensitive yet sometimes impotent masculinity...O'Connell's broad-stroked but disgustingly gleeful performance...making him the man you love to hate...MacCluggage is extremely enjoyable and a shining standout...All flourish under Wise's deft direction and capable staging." Full Review

80
Theater Pizzazz

for a previous production "The actors do not disappoint, especially in the performance by Jason O’Connell in the leading role...He is enough to see the show all on its own. As for the play itself, even if Vonnegut’s writing, once cutting edge is now somewhat duller, his absurdist take on the human condition has not dated at all. And if the plotting is clunky (which frankly, it always was), Vonnegut more than makes up for it up by his witty and thought-provoking dialogue, which will forever be linked as his trademark." Full Review

75
Off Off Online

for a previous production "The play may not be a masterpiece, but the production by the Wheelhouse Theater Company under director Jeff Wise breathes screwball life into it with strong performances and unabashed theatricality...Under Wise’s direction, the disparate elements blend together like some psychedelic head trip...Most crucial to the production’s success is Jason O’Connell’s riveting performance as Harold, even if he often tips into excess." Full Review

75
Talkin' Broadway

for a previous production "Vonnegut fans will recognize the genre-busting conceits and madcap non sequiturs, and the play's antiwar, antigun satirical focus is pointed and unambiguous...Not a great play...It is, though, boldly theatrical and has its share of Vonnegut's trademark lunacy and deliciously lowbrow humor...Under Jeff Wise's brash direction, the cast is uniformly strong...The play overstays its welcome in the nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time, but in this production...there is certainly much to celebra... Full Review

70
TheaterScene.net

for a previous production "Vonnegut fans and enthusiasts of extremely broad acting will be thrilled by this revival...It’s rarely performed and this excellent production from Wheelhouse Theater Company demonstrates why...Exuberant dialogue matched with a 1960s biting sensibility, a familiar plot, and Shavian speechifying adds up to a patchy and long-winded experience...Their sterling presentation reveals it to be a piece of its time with little weight that does faithfully convey the sly spirit of Vonnegut." Full Review

60
Lighting & Sound America

for a previous production "The play is top-heavy with unamusing exposition; the characters keep coming and going to no purpose, except to engage in lengthy, detail-filled conversations with each other. When a climactic scene is finally arranged, it is as flat as everything else that has come before it. These conclusions are easy to reach because Jeff Wise's staging seems to be right in the spirit of Vonnegut's intentions, with a skillful cast onboard...But much of 'Happy Birthday, Wanda June' dates badly." Full Review

50
Theatre's Leiter Side

for a previous production "Unfortunately, and I know I'm an outlier here, this Wheelhouse Theater Company production is overacted, under-funny, and ineffectually directed. The original's three acts are compressed into two, running a talkatively dreary two hours and 40 minutes. Director Jeff Wise isn't able to locate the correct pace, leading to a lugubrious lack of tension. He also fails to create a world in which we can accept the plausibility of these offbeat characters and a sense of their commitment to one another." Full Review


100
During previews For a previous production
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see

See it if you are an avid Vonnegut reader and understand his writing. Appreciate a modern tale of a classic, with the consequences of male stupidity.

Don't see it if you can't stand conflict, absurdity or things that are not neatly wrapped up like a birthday cake for a cute girl with a green balloon.

100
During previews For a previous production
Great acting, Masterful, Great writing, Hilarious, Great staging

See it if you love Vonnegut... you love good drama and thinking.

Don't see it if are looking for fluffy entertainment. Hate Vonnegut and don't care to think.

95
During previews For a previous production
Funny, Clever, Epic, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy Kurt Vonnegut style writing, beautiful staging with complimenting lighting and a stunning cast

Don't see it if You want a straight forward play with the basic and boring setup of beginning, middle and end

94
During previews For a previous production
Ambitious, Clever, Edgy, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you like experimental plays of the 70's that are still relevant today. The acting of most of the actors was outstanding. Great funny plot

Don't see it if you don't like experimental quirky work or if you don't like to see plays in a very tiny theater.

94
During previews For a previous production
Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant, Great writing

See it if You are appalled by Trump et al, or if you like Vonnegut

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with extreme patriarchy or strong emotional content.

93
During previews For a previous production
Funny, Epic, Must see, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You want to laugh, act 1 was the best, non stopped laughing. Act 2 gets to the point still funny.

Don't see it if Dark humor isn’t for you, you don’t like small theater shows

93
During previews For a previous production
A funny, scary, and occasionally surreal satire on machismo and tyranny.

See it if A mast-see for Vonnegut’s fans! Great actors, impeccable visual and audio design!

Don't see it if You like realism in the theater.

92
During previews For a previous production
Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if Still relevant after all these years

Don't see it if Best for Vonnegut fans

92
During previews For a previous production
Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You enjoy a thoughtful show that says a lot about guns, violence and machismo. Excellent performances.

Don't see it if You don’t not want to see a period piece with absurdist touches.

91
During previews For a previous production
Funny, Clever, Edgy, Great writing

See it if You like Vonnegut; you like to laugh; you like farce

Don't see it if You don't like farce

90
During previews For a previous production
Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you want a thought-provoking show; you like satirical, dark humor; you love seeing absolutely fantastic acting; you like quirky characters

Don't see it if you don't like satirical, thought-provoking humor; you don't like plays; you don't like hearing/seeing foul language or gestures in a play

90
During previews For a previous production
Brilliant, scathing, must-see

See it if you enjoy no-holds-barred social commentary and dark humor.

Don't see it if you can't tolerate scary, loud, up-close acting and graphic depictions of violence.

Also Still-timely play explores the worst of human behavior, including gun ... Read more Read less

90
During previews For a previous production
Edgy, Intelligent, Fresh, Excellent cast and direction, Timely, relevant

See it if You're up for a terrific and sharp production of Vonnegut's flawed but timely meditation on American machismo, violence and determination.

Don't see it if No reason not to catch more great work by this thoughtful & enterprising company; cast, direction &production shine in this rarely seen play

Also There’s a welcome surfeit of intelligent choices in this sharp, timely... Read more Read less

90
During previews For a previous production
Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a rarely performed play from the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut

Don't see it if you are not able to pay close attention for two intense hours of intimate live theater

Also Cast was really great. The writing , and the way it was performed , re... Read more Read less

90
During previews For a previous production
Funny, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy some supreme acting, clever staging and costumes w/in a small stage. An existential storyline

Don't see it if you don't like small theaters that aren't fancy or if you yearn for a high budget, broadway-like production

90
During previews For a previous production
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Quirky

See it if You are a fan of Vonnegut and aren't easily shocked. It's his stylistic character work, and it is well done!

Don't see it if you hate guns, straying a bit from reality, or Kurt Vonnegut.

90
During previews For a previous production
Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you enjoy seeing how relevant a 50-year old play, written for a completely different time, can be.

Don't see it if you don’t like plays that hold a mirror up to the audience.

Also See it for the stage debut of 9-year old Charlotte Wise, the only evid... Read more Read less

90
During previews For a previous production
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You've never seen this classic. It is very well done and the cast is fantastic

Don't see it if You are not a fan of the play or don't like going to NOHO

89
During previews For a previous production
Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant

See it if The acting is excellent. Very impressed by the intensity of the energy! Definitely worth seeing before it leaves.

Don't see it if You don’t like small theaters,or if you are offended by yelling and loud noises.

89
During previews For a previous production
Edgy, Great acting, Masterful, Hilarious, Great staging

See it if You want to see actors take huge truthful chances and succeed in going very far. The premise is involving and relevant to our time

Don't see it if If you want a safer strictly entertaining light evening. It's in an intimate theatre which may not be for everyone

Also Some of the actors are absolute genius. The first act rolls along fabu... Read more Read less

89
During previews For a previous production
Resonant, Timely, On point cast, direction, staging, Jason o'connell = spectacular, Absurdist comedy

See it if Kurt Vonnegut's 1970s inflected comedy with guns, big game hunters, widows, orphans & little girls killed by icecream trucks grabs you

Don't see it if absurdist comedy, Kurt Vonnegut, intermissions, jungle fever, abusive husbands, direct address, guns, dead little girls dont float your boat

88
During previews For a previous production
Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Great writing

See it if you enjoy Vonnegut's unique blend of satire, absurdism and social commentary. Humor and tragedy somehow find their places on the same stage

Don't see it if you want a simple, linear story that does nothing to expand your imagination or make you think.

88
During previews For a previous production
Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great staging

See it if you want to see a treasure by K.V.jr that is rarely performed. It is as relevant today as it was in 1970. See it!!!

Don't see it if quirky absurdist plays are not for you.

88
During previews For a previous production
Funny, Clever, Great acting, Intense, Quirky

See it if The acting is excellent in this play. The story is Relationship problem, violence, and disturbing sometimes.

Don't see it if The subjects of hurting, violence, and crazy.

Also The time flies watching this show. Cast was excellent. Jason O' Connel... Read more Read less

88
During previews For a previous production
Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky, Resonant, Great staging

See it if If you enjoy Kurt Vonnegut's writing because it's rare you get to enjoy one of his plays produced and well acted and directed!

Don't see it if If you find plays with rage and abusive characters too hard to sit through.


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