Playwright: adapted by
John Hildreth from the novel by
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
At: Lifeline Theatre,
6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
Phone: ( 773 ) 761-4477; $24
Runs through: April 3
The adventures of a humble citizen stranded in alien lands far—but not TOO far—from the World As We Know It comprise a literary genre dating back to the Odyssey. But in 1959, Kurt Vonnegut took the concept to an Einsteinian level with a narrative style that quantum-jumped whole galaxies, past and future, with no warning or explanation. This he called 'chrono-synclastic infundibulum', translated in the course of our play's action as 'time-curve funnel' ( synclasm being a 'break from continuity' and infundere, to 'pour' ) . This precept should be kept in mind during Lifeline Theatre's stage adaptation of The Sirens Of Titan, lest we become as unsure of our footing as the characters doomed to circle in a universe where time is, literally, out of joint.
Our space wanderer's earth-born name is Malachi Constant—changed to 'Onk' following his induction into the Martian army, after losing the money inherited from a sire whose faith in God and Capitalism was rewarded by unfettered success. The woman who will bear Malachi's child is Beatrice Rumfoord, a fellow soldier whom he ravishes one night in a fit of hormonal homesickness ( an impulse more tolerated in Vonnegut's age than nowadays ) . Her celebrated husband, Winston Niles Rumfoord, is unperturbed, since his time-travels have convinced him that all these events were foreordained.
Adapter John Hildreth, having previously fitted Around The World In Eighty Days and Cat's Cradle to the dimensions of Lifeline's stage and concentration spans, condenses his nebulous material with capable efficiency. And under Kevin Theis' direction, an ensemble of shape-shifting actors—anchored by David Blixt as the hapless Malachi, Elise Kauzlaric as the prim Beatrice and David Skvarla as the smug Winston—guide us through the story's labyrinthine complications with charm and alacrity.
But even cute futuristic devices, like the stick-mounted space-ships swooping over our heads and a robot dressed in what appears to be industrial marinera sauce, cannot compensate for the enervating effects of such now-threadbare motifs as German-accented doctors and revivalist church liturgies, nor can it disguise the vaguely adolescent tone of Vonnegut's mockery. Thus, ironically, does Time undermine the efforts of writers lacking the clairvoyance with which they endow their fantasy surrogates.