Never were the follies of war so poignantly captured as in Joseph Heller's Catch-22. From the black marketing of army goods to the intricacies of military bureaucracy, Heller shows that war is not to be taken at face value, but to be examined in layers. So, in a time where we daily confront war and its frustrations, Cardinal Rep Theatre is presenting Heller's stage adaptation of his novel at the Freight Station beginning August 22.
For those whose high school reading lists did not include Catch-22, the novel examines the lives of some Army personnel and their civilian counterparts during the later stages of World War II. Bombers are being forced to fly more missions, increasing the danger factor each time. The only way to be excused from flying is if you’re insane, but only a sane person would come out and say they were insane in hopes of being grounded. In the background is the lunacy of wartime bureaucracy, plots to undermine military commands, and a case of mistaken death.
The 464-page novel is condensed to a script around 100 pages. “The best part of the novel is the writing,” says director Sheila Lynne “You can tell that Heller took his favorite parts and still got across the absurdities and ridiculousness of war.”
In terms of how well the book translates to the stage, the cast agrees that all the important parts and strong messages come across well. “I think this is the best it could have been done because if how much the book goes back and forth along the timeline,” says Ryan Brown, who plays Yossarian, the play’s main character. “If you like what the book has to say, you’ll enjoy this because none of the meaning is lost.”
The cast consists of twenty characters played by twelve actors. “It comes down to making each character distinct, by either physicality or other means, which is a fun challenge,” explains Lynne.
Steven Cyr plays three characters, two of which are part of a conspiracy and the third is the investigator on said case. “The brilliance about the play is that I feel like it spends more time being an outsider of the situation by commenting on it, rather than hitting you over the head with it like the book sometimes does,” comments Cyr.
In a nod to how Catch-22’s message applies to all wars, Lynne chose to use camouflage prints and uniforms from several different eras. “We wanted to try and cover Vietnam, the current Iraqi war, even the Civil War,” she says.
The show is done in the round. “It’s a fast-paced, fun show, and the stage type really helps make the scene changes transition well,” points out actress Valerie Lavelle.
“I like theatre to be a very emotional, interactive experience between the actors and the audience. You can reach out and literally touch the actors, not that I would actually encourage anyone to do that,” Lynne adds laughingly.
“Come with an open mind,” suggests Benjamin Wolfe, who plays the chaplain. “You’re going to see these outrageous characters and you’ll be laughing from the moment you sit down until the lights come up at the end.”
When: Aug. 22-24, Aug. 29-31, 8 p.m.
Where: 703 Louisville Road
Info: www.cardinalrep.org or 912/631-3773