Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Da-Da-Delightful: Happenstance Theater's Manifesto!

In the early days of Balkans via Bohemia, I blogged about Happenstance Theater's Manifesto -- a really smart and hilarious take on the Dadaist movement. It remains one of the best things I've ever seen on a Washington, DC stage.

The good news for DC audiences is that Happenstance is reviving Manifesto for five performances at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. (See below for the dates and times.)

Here's a bit of what I wrote about the show during its first run:

So what does Happenstance do with Dada? Well, first, and best, they foreground the physical comedy of Dadaist performance -- the frenetic clowning, the farts, and the high-pitched exotic nonsense of it all. They remind the audience, even at a knowing remove, that Dada was meant to insult and offend and even physically repel those who were not in on its nihilistic joking.

Second, the company's mash-up of various texts reads Dada back into its particular milieu of contested avant-gardism. Sure, Dada was a revolt against the nationalism, capitalism and imperialism that created the First World War. But it was also a movement that bloodied the nose of other competing movements -- especially other artistic "isms" including the Futurism spearheaded by Filippo Tomasso Marinetti, which was co-opted and corroded by its adherents' preening, vulgar delight in war and destruction. It's no accident that Happenstance's production literally kills off and chalk marks the body of a Futurist, or that it presents capitalism and communism in a sado-masochistic tango that tickles, slaps and collapses in on itself.

It's a rare thing to see texts which are largely the province of art historians and literary critics brought to life and brought to laughter. Happenstance is to be congratulated for doing so.

This is really a must-see. Bonus: The performances are in the (blessedly, in Fringe terms) air-conditioned Mead Theatre at Studio Theatre. Read more about what Happenstance says about the show here. Performances are Friday July 8 @ 8:15pm; Sunday July 10 @ 4pm; Wednesday July 13 @ 7pm; Wednesday July 20 @ 6pm; Saturday July 23 @ 2:15pm. Go. Go. Go.