Chicago Tribune today:
Before 'Dada,' check your logic with the donkey
By Kerry Reid
Mark Twain's author's note for "Huckleberry Finn" famously noted warned: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
A similar advisory is in order for viewers of WNEP's "Soiree Dada: Blinde Esel Hopse (Blind Donkey Hopscotch)," which has turned the usually austere Chicago Cultural Center studio theater into a funhouse of dystopia. A cross between the Mad Hatter's tea party and a performance art festival performed by feral children, the ensemble of white-faced tricksters slips the occasional shiv of social commentary in between the ribs of the audience. But don't expect any easily digested bromides. If even low-level audience participation gives you hives, don't go.
At the same time, director Don Hall has orchestrated the piece so that the most invasive moments stay on the side of good-natured buffoonery. It's hard to find anything truly offensive in the accusation "You do not know the first eleven digits of pi." Most of the sharpest aphorisms come courtesy of DADA Dabo (Jen Ellison), who is the ringmaster of this anti-art circus. Audience members are seated throughout the playing area, which is divided between the "French" and "German" dadaists. A series of interactions, sketches, songs, and confrontations among the Dadas suggests that the primal urge for instant gratification is the bedrock of most human endeavor, and that most people will do as they're told by an authority figure. (Here, audience members took aim at the Dadas in a game called "Shoot the Freaks.")
To ding a show like this for self-indulgence would be silly, but the interactivity and the large cast add up to a thematically looser experience than the last WNEP Dada show I saw (2005's "Soiree Dada: Neue Weltaffen"), which seemed to cut a little deeper along sociopolitical lines. But then again, as we are reminded by the end, "Dada is a telephone that keeps going off at the worst possible time." Adventurous patrons should take the call.
Through Oct. 14 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St.; $15-$20 at 312-742-8497.