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  • Angela Allyn

A Vonnegut for our times

It seems we are in an era of reckoning about the our atomic legacy: from the odd little nuclear test in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City to the opus Oppenheimer, and now Lifeline Theatre takes us back to our future with Cat’s Cradle. In a fast paced, darkly funny and true to the original adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s semi autobiographical sci fi break out novel, Lifeline brings to life a seminal work of the 20th century and one that is eerily important for right now. Lifeline ensemble member John Hildreth clearly adores this work and with ensemble member Heather Currie directing, this is a fall must see production. It is a tale we need to see and think about right now as we face ever more ways to bring vast changes to life as we know it.

Lifeline is known for lovingly adapting literary works for the stage in fast paced productions in an intimate space so that you end up right in the middle of, in this case, the Bokonon hymns and several revival meetings of this invented religion. If you don’t know this iconic book, the plot centers around a writer who was going to write about the Day the World Ended, as in the dropping of the bomb at Hiroshima, but it turns out one of the scientists on the project created something even more world concluding: Ice Nine! which can turn the world into a frozen wasteland. Of course I don’t want to spoil the plot, but you will ride along on a madcap adventure seeking the idiosyncratic children of the scientist that will journey to a banana republic and many unlikely satiric and comic scenarios before the end of the evening. Vonnegut, as adapted by Hildreth, is morbidly funny and unrelentingly damning of everything from Indiana (his home state) the worship of science, any religion, any concepts of deity. But there is a transformational humanity to his story and the characters, so that this makes up the type of theater that connects us all in the fundamental tragicomedy of human existence. This show is smart and deep and compassionate even as it damns our species.

This ensemble is marvelous:Johnard Washington as Bokanon AND Papa Manzano, Shelby Lynn Bias as iconic Mona, Shea Lee as Newt Hoenikker, Tony Bozutto as Jonah our protagonist– all give stellar and memorable performances. It is such a joy to experience this team run through their paces.

Lifeline and Vonnegut are a truly satisfying pairing: Cat’s Cradle is playing Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through October 22, 2023 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood in Chicago’s Roger’s Park neighborhood. Don’t miss it! For tickets and information go to

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photo by Jackie Jasperson

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