Happy Birthday, Wanda June

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Wanda June
by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut’s only play is about Harold Ryan, a hunter, soldier and all-around “man’s man.” He left his family a decade before the play begins to search for diamonds in the Amazon. He has since been declared dead and his wife and son have been trying to make a life for themselves without him. Penelope (aptly named because she waits 10 years for her husbands return) and her son Paul are shocked when Harold turns up on their doorstep.

No one is more surprised than the two men that Penelope has been dating: a vacuum salesman named Herb Shuttle and the peaceful doctor, Norbert Woodly. Penelope’s life is thrown into chaos with her husband’s return. His cruel and brash ways are ill suited for life outside the jungle.

The three-act play is soaked with Vonnegut’s trademark wit and sarcasm. It’s a harsh look at men who pride themselves as warriors vs. men who value peace. I had the opportunity to see it performed as a live reading at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and then I read a hardcopy. It was interesting to note that the theatre company doing the reading chose to end the play in a different way than it ends in the book.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s not Vonnegut’s best work, but it’s hard to find and reading it back-to-back with a viewing of a live reading was such a treat. If you already love Vonnegut than read it if you have the chance!

Photo of play reading by moi.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I think I may have read him in school somewhere along the way, but don't have much experience with him. But still, I think it would be a huge amount of fun to do the play and read the book!

Belle Wong said...

Such a nice experience, to have heard the live reading and then read the book! I didn't even know Vonnegut had written a play. It sounds interesting - I'll have to keep it in mind when I'm in a play-reading mood.

Rob said...

I've been wanting to read more plays lately, and I love Vonnegut, so I'll have to find a copy of this!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read this one, and I'm a huge Vonnegut fan. Thanks for the nudge!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - He's just about our only Hoosier author, so I feel proud of our state when I read him. Try the audio of The Man Without a Country, I think you'd like that more than his sci-fi stuff.

Belle - I had no idea he wrote a play either!

Rob - It's a hard one to find, but keep your eye out or check online and you might get lucky!

misfortuneofknowing - It's an interesting one!