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

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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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

Show Showdown

"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

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

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

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

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

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


"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

Lighting & Sound America

"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

Theatre's Leiter Side

"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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Dizzying, Enchanting

See it if you love Vonnegut. A biting satire for Donald Trump's America: aggressive masculinity, guns, war, corruption, amorality, abuse of women.

Don't see it if you prefer light comedy, and realistic settings, situations, and dialog. This play is dark and experimental.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you like seeing plays that aren’t produced as much and enjoy black comedies

Don't see it if you aren’t a fan of Vonnegut’s writing, are uncomfortable with swearing and twisted imagery, or prefer big budget productions

Also Kurt Vonnegut Jr May have rated this play a D-, but it deserves the hi... Read more Read less

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.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You like thought provoking, dark comedy.

Don't see it if You don't like satirical comedy. You prefer musical theatre in a traditional setting.

Great acting, Relevant, Riveting, Hilarious, Great staging

See it if you love farce, absurdism, brilliant direction, and a marvelously broad acting style from this perfect cast in a very intimate theatre.

Don't see it if you cannot handle themes of misogyny and violence in this dark comedy of toxic masculinity. Well costumed in the 70s eerily relevant today.

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.

Ambitious, Edgy, Resonant, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if absurdity gone wild keeps you amused. Lots of madness in the service of signifiant ideas including imaginative use of the set.

Don't see it if realistic dramas are your preferred form. These are stock characters performing farce.

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you like Vonnegut, appreciate strange stories & dark comic satires; can see how a play written in Vietnam era has relevance for today

Don't see it if you want a play to get better in 2nd half - this one does drag a lot then; or if you don't want to see an over-the-top macho type

Also I was a bit disappointed by the second half - a little too wordy. But ... Read more Read less

Funny, Great acting, Intense, Quirky, Relevant

See it if you want to see themes of toxic masculinity/violence/the problems of heroism explored in a funny and intense way

Don't see it if you're not comfortable in a small theater (cast members very close to/speaking directly to audience at some moments)

Also In some ways the most fun parts of this play for me were the ways in w... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if Vintage Vonnegut (at his satiric best) proves shockingly timely & moving Whip cracking direction; strong acting propel potent drama Neat set

Don't see it if At times tends towards narrative vs action which can slow pace But Jason O'Connell's Harold in a stunning star turn covers any dramatic sins

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.

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

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Cliched, Entertaining

See it if You want to see a play about a macho character who is out of place with society. The parallel to current manliness is uncanny

Don't see it if You don’t like plays with violence or abusive characters.

Funny, Clever, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Relevant

See it if like absurdist plays with an undercurrent of unrest and relevance. Black comedy at its best,

Don't see it if need literal and linear explanations for everything. You dislike cramped, warm off-Broadway theatre spaces.

Also Some fabulous performances here; they must have to rebuild the scenery... Read more Read less

Great acting, Quirky, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You love classic Vonnegut. And classic revivals done w quirky flare

Don't see it if Guns and maschismo triggers you

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting

See it if If you enjoy dark comedy and good acting.

Don't see it if You want a straight forward play that doesn't require too much introspection.