Soiree Dada | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

SOIREE DADA, WNEP Theater Foundation, at TurnAround Theatre. Someone sitting in the audience for this fascinating hour-long performance may well wonder how long the silence, screaming, gibberish, and baffling exchanges will last. The evening almost defies description, but that, after all, is the point of dadaism.

The WNEP Theater Foundation's show offers simultaneous dialogue in multiple languages, scenes in which dialogue is contradicted by action, and bizarre moments that turn convention upside down. Performing in whiteface, all wearing glasses and oddly fitting suits, an unidentified, talented cast of four--the press kit says they're "incognito"--deliberately distance themselves from and mislead the audience. They perform songs and poetry from backstage, and one actor welcomes the crowd by lip-synching words spoken by an unseen actor.

One of the performers hands pages of a script to members of the audience, which we dutifully read. The actors also throw books at us--a biography of Janis Joplin, a book on parenting, a catalog--and we read along with the actors, stopping when they stop. When the stage lights finally go out, we sit silently in the dark, waiting for more than two minutes before the house lights go on. Erratic in tone and abstract in content--as it should be--Soiree Dada may be most provacative in demonstrating how acquiescent audiences are even when facing a chaotic and confrontational performance.

--Jenn Goddu

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