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The Sirens of Titan

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Big Game Theater, at Chicago Actors Ensemble.

This stage version of Kurt Vonnegut's 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan is the sort of tiresome, uneven show that makes you appreciate just how hard it is to translate a novel into a play.

Vonnegut's original novel is not perfect by any means. His characters are shallow. His story wanders aimlessly, from earth to Mars to Mercury and back to earth, before landing with a thud on Titan, one of Saturn's moons. But there's something about Vonnegut's witty, bitter narrative voice and his willingness to make fun of everyone, including himself, that keeps the book interesting long after we've lost interest in his protagonists--a trio of hapless Americans whose lives become entwined when one of them flies his rocket ship into a breach in the space-time continuum Vonnegut calls the chrono-synclastic infundibula.

Unfortunately, David Cromer, who adapted and directed this Big Game Theater production, sacrifices all but a few shreds of Vonnegut's fine narration, instead focusing on the novel's weakest elements: character and plot. The result is predictable: 45 minutes into this noisy, clumsily acted, sloppily directed, two-and-a-half-hour epic, we find ourselves glancing at our watches and thinking about what we're going to do after the show.

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