Members say: Great acting, Relevant, Funny, Thought-provoking, Great writing

About the show

Wheelhouse Theater Company presents a new staging of famed novelist Kurt Vonnegut's rarely produced satire. A searing and darkly comedic look at American culture.

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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.


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90
Show Showdown

"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

85
Manhattan Digest

"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

85
The New York Times

"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

80
Theater Pizzazz

"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
Talkin' Broadway

"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

75
Off Off Online

"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

70
TheaterScene.net

"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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

90
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

83
Clever, Great acting, Relevant, Dated, Entertaining

See it if You appreciate truly funny, over-the-top acting and terrific directing, or if your are a fan of Vonnegut. Excellent cast.

Don't see it if You can't stand some dated, misogynistic lines, or depictions of violence, or a script with its tongue firmly in its cheek.

100
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.

85
Funny, Great acting, Profound, Great writing, Great staging

See it if If you like good acting, directing lighting and an esoteric story. KV, JR is a very provocative writer and the show is well acted, staged.

Don't see it if If you do not like a story with several meanings that tests your thought process. If you like big productions.

70
Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow, Dated

See it if You like Vonnegut's brand of simplistic scifi, this time dividing society into those who kill and those who don't.

Don't see it if Vonnegut trying to be Shaw, but didn't capture the intellectual and social issues. The overacting alarm sounded whenever the lead onstage

71
Confusing, Overrated, Complex

See it if You’re like most people

Don't see it if You have a short attention span like I do

Also I was the only one who left at intermission so there must be something... Read more Read less

78
Funny, Absorbing, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you like a quirky Vonnegut play which feels relevant to today's times. The actors are committed and give great, energized performances.

Don't see it if you don't like small, intimate venues or absurd plays. Production makes good use of the space, but it's certainly no Broadway spectacle.

Also This is a funny play with many strange and absurd moments, but it also... Read more Read less

73
Great acting, Dated, Worth seeing vonnegut, fantastic cast

See it if WANT 2 C VONNEGUT ‘S VIEW OF HERO WORSHIP, VIOLENCE, FEAR & DEATH FROM BY A VERY SCARY COMICALLY FEROSE HAROLD (O'CONNELL) &A GREAT CAST

Don't see it if U DON'T LIKE ABSURDIST VONNEGUT, DATED BUT STILL THOUGHT PROVOKING MATERIAL

83
Great acting, Great writing, Still relevant, Dangerously hilarious, Bizarre aka vonnegut

See it if You like offbeat humor, unsubtle progressive politics in the face of Trump-like instigation, and an old, old story that is still relevant

Don't see it if Politics aren't progressive & U can't put them aside to enjoy a show, or politics R progressive & U can't stomach awfulness to make a point

89
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

79
Dizzying, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Profound

See it if You love Vonnegut. You appreciate the absurd.

Don't see it if You get startled easily by loud noises. You don’t appreciate satire.

Also I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but I found myself telling everyone about... Read more Read less

100
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.

86
Great acting, Must see, Relevant, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if You like good acting, specially Harold and Penelope was over the top. Eventhough the play takes place in past, still relavant.

Don't see it if You do not like Very intimate theatre setting, violence, hunting, war talk, profanity.

79
Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if Powerful acting. Intimate theatre setting. If you grew up in the late 60’s/early 70’s with authors like Vonnegut, Heller, Salinger.

Don't see it if Want light entertainment!

80
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to see great acting in a play that touches on relevant issues but also has some HILARIOUS scenes.

Don't see it if you can't handle some uncomfortable scenes with misogynistic content.

79
During previews
Funny, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if You are ready for something different and have an open mind. You want to see some good acting and really nice staging.

Don't see it if You are not open to a play that is not like any other. You are too serious and closed minded. You don't like absurdity in a good way.

81
During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if want to see a rarely staged Vonnegut story. Great actors in a small intimate space. Interesting!

Don't see it if you don't like male characters behaving as if they rule the world and need to show off their big bad he-man ways.

85
During previews
Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if If you like plays that look at issues of human nature done in a fresh and imaginative way. And if you’d a Vonnegut fan you’ll love it

Don't see it if If you don’t like absurd type plays that are surreal and out of the box

50
During previews
Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Unpleasant characters

See it if Don't. It's Vonnegut, but it's random, chaotic, and not funny

Don't see it if Read his books.

83
During previews
Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound, Slow, Upsetting

See it if you resist sorting people into Winners and Losers; are interested in how the gods of the old world become the devils of the new one.

Don't see it if you want to feel happy watching it. Actors apply their talents to irritate. Cruel, scornful dialogue; kicking easy targets when they’re down

Also Watching the show felt like a 75. After thinking about it for several ... Read more Read less

88
During previews
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.

90
During previews
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

93
During previews
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

70
During previews
Dark, Relevant, Loud, Well staged, Strong acting

See it if you like dark absurdist works. Strong anti-violence message. Some laughs. Strong ensemble cast. High prodn values. Strange digressions.

Don't see it if you dislike brutality. HBWJ assaults you. Jason commits, but it's hard to take (and loud!) I was uncomfortable. Admirable, but not enjoyable

88
During previews
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.