Soiree DADA: Blinde Esel Hopse WNEP Theater at Chicago Cultural Center (see Fringe & storefront). Dir. Don Hall. With ensemble cast.
DADA DAY CAMP The white-faced cast of Soiree creates a little Duchamp of horrors.
One of WNEP's clownlike Dada creatures is in the middle of an emotional monologue when suddenly his fellows surround him, making noise, shouting, singing and generally drowning him out. The storyteller soldiers on through the distraction until he can't take it anymore, shouting, "I am having a poignant moment here!"
Good luck with that, we think. There's poignancy in the latest Soiree DADA; it's just not in Hallmark-card form. These Dadaists will move you, but they're not going to be mushy about it.
The latest edition of WNEP's nonsense cabaret, sprung from the confines of its shoeboxlike former spaces, ups the ante for its stay at the Cultural Center with a cast of 11 white-faced, questionably accented Dadaists, combining the purposely irrational, logic-rejecting anti-aesthetics of Dada practitioners Tristan Tzara and George Grosz with elements of vaudeville (unlike the Dadaists of old, this group isn't averse to actually entertaining us).
Hall and his cast take us on one daft roller-coaster ride, careening from the sublimely silly (the petulant Dadaists fight over their belongings like toddlers) to that aforementioned prickly poignancy—witness Jen Ellison's aggressive, desperately powerful, climactic counting piece. Those allergic to audience participation should find other plans, but a little harmless "in your face" is a small price to pay for some darn good "in your brain."
And from last week's Newcity:
Soiree DADA: Blinde Esel Hopse (Stage » Comedy » Improv/Revues)
Chaos is the language of choice in WNEP’s Dada revue, and while the Dadaists may talk a good game about the anti-aesthetics of their cause, there is an aesthetic nonetheless. Even a fuck-the-rules attitude can achieve beauty. But how deep does it go? In white face and black lips, the Dada performers here engage in feverous activity--the show plays out like a poetry slam in a blender--and if the goal is simply to entertain, it succeeds on most fronts. The seating options are deliberately kooky--floor pillows, bistro tables or a communal highchair that looked less than comfy. Where this reanimation of Dada fails, for me at least, is intellectually. The show is performed at you and bounces back to the performers--you walk out not rattled so much as mildly amused. I’m all for non-stop nonsense. "Are you afraid of the ding dong and the ping ping?" Who knows, but I like the way it sounds. But too often gibberish becomes white noise. The strongest elements of the show involve Jen Ellison as the ring leader, Dada Dabo. With her short blonde hair slicked back, she looks a little like Julie Andrews in "Victor Victoria," but her manner is officious and sadistic, as she twirls her pinky ring and surveys the crowd with a satisfied stare. She is an evil mastermind with a brusque German accent. And yet she is a reassuring presence, an ogre with a spring in her step. "If I were to fondle your ass, would you be offended?" she asks an audience member, who is then instructed: "Stand up, turn around and bend over." No joke. "Are you offended now?" she taunts as her hand inches closer to said ass. "Howaboutnow, howaboutnow, howaboutnow?" Ellison finds the weird in her comedy to great effect. "I must say, I am impressed with the frivolous way your treat your body," she concludes. Of all the Dadaists, Ellison’s is the most defined of the lot, and she alone rattles a few cages with her carefully modulated performance.
- Nina Metz