Cat’s Cradle, Lifeline Theatre. Kurt Vonnegut’s darkly funny 1963 novel, about a socially inept scientist who inadvertently destroys the world, has not aged well. Though the ideas are still marvelous–especially Vonnegut’s send-ups of organized religion and a scientific establishment that mindlessly creates weapons of mass destruction–Vonnegut could have used an editor. The book is only a few hundred pages long but feels endless.

Adapting the novel for the stage, John Hildreth becomes the editor Vonnegut never had. This fairly faithful version, which runs a little longer than two hours, feels tighter, more focused, and even funnier at times than the original. Hildreth heightens some aspects of the novel, in particular Vonnegut’s witty digressions into the world of a bogus religion called Bokononism, and wisely deemphasizes others that are no longer as relevant, such as Vonnegut’s cutting observations about cold war America. This production is further enlivened by director Ann Boyd’s versatile, comically gifted ensemble, led by the ever likable Phil Ridarelli, and by Joe Winston’s fascinating video segments, which convey the postapocalyptic America–not easily captured onstage.

Hildreth’s adaptation isn’t perfect. He and Boyd have not been able to fully re-create Vonnegut’s weird mixture of cynicism and naivete. And there’s nothing they can do about the novel’s whimper of an ending.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzanne Plunkett.