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PHOTOS: “Happy Birthday, Wanda June” at Bruka Theatre

By Dana Nollsch
Published: Last Updated on

Stepping back into a world he thought he knew, Harold Ryan and his sidekick, Col. Looseleaf Harper, find everything has changed. Well, most everything.

That is a very short summary of “Happy Birthday, Wanda June”. The story goes so much deeper though. Written by Kurt Vonnegut and directed by John Blomberg this is the latest production at Bruka Theatre.

We are shown the legacy of the long-missing big game hunter and adventurer, Harold Ryan, who has been lost in the jungle for eight years. His wife, son, and apartment await his return even though he has been declared dead. The apartment remains much the same as he left it; trophies and memorabilia decorate and leave a strong impression of this powerful man. His son is sure he will return one day and his wife is more than ready to move on.

Well, as you may have guessed Harold returns with his traveling partner and sidekick, Col. Looseleaf Harper, who has quite the backstory of his own. The two of them find how things have changed not only in their personal lives, but also with society’s transformation from the early 1960s to the early 1970s. This is a culture shock for both of them, and for the people around them.

Throw into the mix some ghosts and exuberant suitors this is quite a story.

This production is funny and does push some buttons, as Harold is a self-important tyrant of a man. By the end of the play you may not like him very much. As a matter of fact, he reminds me of someone, but I got off track.

With the occasional breaking of the fifth wall, Harold talks to the audience directly bringing just a bit more understanding of what is going on in his head. This is a wonderful character study and perhaps Harold Ryan will remind you of someone too?

The cast brings life to the characters and the set is magnificent with many of the trophy pieces provided by the Wilbur D. May Museum. I truly enjoyed “Happy Birthday, Wanda June” and recommend this to anyone who wants to laugh and experience some heartfelt community theater.

This is one of the plays that I long to see again later in the run to catch some of the subtleties I may have missed the first time around.

“Happy Birthday, Wanda June” plays Jan. 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28 and Feb. 2, 3, 4 with shows at 8 p.m. There is a matinee Jan. 22 at 2 p.m.

For more information check out Bruka’s website: http://www.bruka.org/

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