CAST's 'Monkey House' is vivid Vonnegut

05/07/2010 9:50 PM

05/07/2010 9:50 PM

Carolina Actors Studio Theatre (CAST) celebrates the audacious humor and creative vision of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in its new production, "Welcome to the Monkey House." The show is an adaptation of eight tales from that short-story collection. The craft of writing takes center stage here with an enormous Smith-Corona typewriter as the focal point of the set. A video projection screen is placed above the typewriter as paper, and the first few lines of each story are typed out as a transition between scenes.

John Merrick, as Vonnegut, addresses us from the stoop of the typewriter keyboard, setting the satiric tone of scenes to come. "Harrison Bergeron" is the first story - a dystopian world where equality is mixed with governmental regulation and becomes mandated mediocrity. Constitutional amendments have been passed to assure the people that nobody is smarter or better-looking than anyone else. Citizens who are smarter must wear headphones that play obnoxious noises so their wearers can't think clearly.

Harrison Bergeron, played with a fiery intensity by Scott McCalmont, manages to break free for a short time, much to the delight and dismay of his parents, who are watching everything unfold on TV.

In the titular story, Billy Poet is a criminal mastermind determined to deflower a hostess at a Howard Johnson's Ethical Suicide Parlor. The World Government runs the parlors and also suppresses the population's sexual desire with drugs. . The pace of the production flags a bit here, though it is buoyed by ingenious video projections.

Directors Michael Simmons and Charles LaBorde have brought Vonnegut's off-kilter vision to vivid and powerful life.

Welcome to the Monkey House

3 Stars

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through May 29.

WHERE: CAST, 1118 Clement Ave.

TICKETS: $20-25.

DETAILS: 704-445-8542; www.nccast.com

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