Yossarian Lives! Catch-22 at PSU April 16

April 15th, 2008 by Adam


PLYMOUTH, N.H. — The Silver Center for the Arts at Plymouth State University presents Catch-22, produced and performed by Aquila Theatre Company, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 16.

Aquila’s dynamic and dark comedy is a new multimedia dramatization of the 1961 classic novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, an adaptation for the stage that was also written by Heller.

“The story is set in World War II, but seems all too apropos as we pass the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war,” said Silver Center Director Diane Jeffrey.

“Heller’s story explores important and timely questions.”
“The play’s title, coined by Heller in his novel, stands for a no-win situation. The circular reasoning poses an unsolvable logical and practical predicament,” said Bruno Koch in

Portfolio Weekly.

Set on an island off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 finds burned-out WWII bombardier John Yossarian caught in a world of bureaucratic absurdity and irrational madness.

Determined to keep the squadron active and on the front line, Yossarian’s superiors continually increase the number of required flying missions, making it impossible for anyone to complete their obligation and be discharged from duty.

“The operative line of reasoning that confronts Yossarian is that one has to be crazy not to be afraid of getting killed. Airmen who are actually crazy are, of course, grounded at once. Yet when claiming to be crazy, as most humans fear death, one attests implicitly to one’s saneness. Hence, one has to fly,” said Koch.

Yossarian’s efforts to plead insanity fail, so he avoids the missions by creating ridiculous excuses, but in doing so prolongs his duty as the missions continue to accrue, and as he says, “complete strangers keep trying to kill me!” A maze of such inter-related “Catch-22” entrapments develop as the play unfolds.

Heller, himself a bomber pilot in WWII, created his novel and play in response to his own experience. “The novel is famously non-linear, full of farcical and tragic repetitions, hilarious and shocking, brutal and callous, confusing and frustrating. In total effect, it is a brilliant depiction of the effects of war on man,” said Director Peter Meineck.

With this new production, Aquila Theatre provokes intense thought and discussion on the nature of war, and its absurdities.

Catch-22 is a crowd-pleasing black comedy, punctuated by an eye-catching sampling of motion picture footage from B-25 bombing runs and related still photographs—projected on a giant screen between and during scenes—plus a choice selection of musical snippets from World War II and more modern hits. Together these images and sounds underscore the absurdist humor and occasional pathos of the events depicted,” said Robert McDowell in The Classical Voice of North Carolina.

Catch-22 is an engrossing and haunting tale of the insanity of war and the quest to find meaning in an empty world. Meineck and the Aquila Theatre Company served up a model for how to adapt a classic from book to stage,” said John R. Phythyon Jr. in The Lawrence Journal.

Tickets for Catch-22 are $30-25 for adults, $28-23 for seniors, $25-20 for youth and $8-5 for PSU students. Call the Silver Center box office at (603) 535-ARTS or (800) 779-3869. Tickets are available online through Tickets.com at Silver.plymouth.edu. Catch-22 at Plymouth State University is sponsored by The Common Man Inn.

For general information about events at PSU, log on to ThisWeek@PSU at http://thisweek.blogs.plymouth.edu.

Photo by Richard Termine