Jeremy Leroux

For much of the late sixties to early 1980’s, American author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was de rigueur reading for anyone wishing to be considered hip. Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963) established his reputation as a writer like no other when it came to witty observations on the human condition. His lengthier Sirens of Titan (1959) had taken the sci-fi story and made it literature.  
The 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five came out just as the Vietnam war was really heating up. American youth were waking up to the fact that friends or neighbours (and perhaps themselves as well) were being drafted to fight a war in a land they’d never heard of.

Boxer Muhammed Ali voiced the concern of many when he refused military induction, declaring that he had no quarrel with his so-called enemy. Those with authority stripped him of his championship titles and of his livelihood. To even the most cynical, this seemed outrageous.

Up until this time, North Americans considered the Allies the good guys fighting the battles in Europe. Vonnegut’s experience as a POW, viewing firsthand the 1945 firebombing of the unarmed hospital city of Dresden, brought about a deep breath and a questioning of that popular belief.

Jackson Carswell
[Jackson Carswell]

There was no easy way to dismiss the incineration of upwards of 130,000 old men, women, and children. If it happened once, just maybe it would happen again if no one stood up to oppose.
Today, going to war is again fashionable. Much to their collective credit, Little Mountain Lion Productions asks that we open our eyes and give our collective head a shake before embarking on this enterprise. Using the device of capturing one reluctant man’s journey through life, we are better able to see our own. Childhood, marriage, death, and yes, war, are all presented for us to explore and make meaning of. Explicitly expressed, just maybe, nothing really matters anyway. Not comforting, but definitely thought-provoking.
As in the novel, Vonnegut himself provides the words to a narrator. Text flows and we are beguiled into an altered state where anything is possible. Off stage, well-known radio personality Doc Harris voices the words flawlessly with as much understanding of the nuanced musings as is humanly possible. We hang onto every utterance and, like young children, yearn to find out what will happen next. A truly impressive and endearing performance.
Acted out before the audience are vignettes that comprise focal character’s Billy Pilgrim’s drift.

While certain incidents stun (a young Billy refusing to swim when his father throws him into the deep end of a swimming pool), some parts inspire — Billy volunteers to collect the bodies of dying soldiers.

A titillating scene occurs when he’s mated with an American porn actress in a zoo on a far-off planet. These episodes flash by at lightning speed; we have to hold our breath and hope to keep up. 
With the exception of Billy, all actors involved perform multiple roles. At times, when all 13 actors appear on stage together, it can seem overwhelming but fortunately director Matt Clarke makes these instances very infrequent and brief. That said, several actors are able to find the spotlight and are given moments to shine. 

I really enjoyed the work put out by Jeremy Leroux (Old Billy), Steve James (Kilgore Trout), Jess Marlow (Barbara), and Luc D’Ippolito (Lazzaro).
The set design (Molly Lai), through necessity, is simple: A few white sheets for a backdrop and a couple of utility gurneys. Our imaginations supply many of the props and all of the guns. Executions and assassinations are quick, easy, and bloodless, and so it goes. The theatre was full and the crowd was appreciative. 
Slaughterhouse-Five continues at Studio 1398 on Granville Island November 13 and 14 at 8 pm and on November 15 at 4 and 8 pm.

About Our Contributor Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini enjoys Vancouver's vibrant theatre scene and has taken in many productions over the years. He holds a BA in Sociology from Simon Fraser University. Larry is financially involved with the film Eadweard Muybridge, produced by Josh Epstein, directed by Kyle Rideout, and starring Michael Eklund.

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