Wheelhouse Theater Company’s excellent Happy Birthday, Wanda June feels like you’re watching a Wes Anderson movie…but if Wes had roid rage! Kurt Vonnegut wrote this play (his first) in 1970. The frightening thing? It’s themes of toxic masculinity and the horrors of the American government are just as horrifyingly relevant today as they were 50 years ago.
Director Jeff Wise and his team of designers use super stylized production values to envelop you in the abstract world of the play that really make the writing pop and allows the acting to shine. The main character is your worst nightmare, played by Jason O’Connell in a gobsmackingly good performance. This dude is so talented that he makes even the best actors you’ve ever seen seem like community theater amateurs. His Harold Ryan is nuanced and extremely hilarious, which just makes him all the more frightening. You’ll have a hard time imagining anyone else living up to the challenges of this powerhouse role ever again. He’s SO good!
Photos: Jeremy Daniel
All other performers in this production are also stellar, but a very special shoutout to Kate MacCluggage as Harold’s wife. Kate is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once and you’ll want to see her in everything she’s in from here on out after seeing her in this show.
Happy Birthday, Wanda June is a total triumph from a bold new theater company that warrants your attention…and your ticket purchase. Go see it!
Runs through November 29.
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