Bangup cast tackles tough material head-on

Written in the shadow of the Vietnam War, novelist and one-time playwright Kurt Vonnegut didn’t hold back in Happy Birthday, Wanda June.

Indeed, this exploration of a hero’s homecoming lands with a punch at the Mary Miller Theatre in Lafayette as it examines the complicated role of masculinity and heroism in modern society.

There’s plenty of dark, Vonnegut-esque humor mixed in, of course.

Presumed dead after eight years missing in the Amazon, Harold Ryan (Kurt Keilbach) turns up at his apartment on the night of his birthday, expecting life to be just as he left it. Though his home remains the same — littered with the proof of his successful big game hunts — he finds his macho way of living disturbingly irrelevant.

His wife, Penelope (Joan Harrold), an adoring carhop when they met and quickly married, is now college educated and engaged to pacifist Dr. Woodley (Terence Keane). His son, Paul (Ayden Edgar), now 12, lacks the rub-some-dirt-in-it mentality Ryan demands.

Disappointed and angry, Ryan obstinately persists in his old way of life while those around him — including a vacuum cleaner salesman (Ian Gerber), his own comrade (Bill Graham), and a few folks in heaven (Hannah Richards, Shelby Beer and Stephany Roscoe) — suggest it’s time to step aside for a new type of American hero.

Acting that tackles tough themes

The actors, an exceptional all-volunteer cast, breathe life into a script many theater companies would be wary to take on, given its in