In the interest of full disclosure, I know Joe Janes, the playwright of Metaluna and the Amazing Science of the Mind Revue, as well a couple of the actors. This probably won't be the most unbiased review I've ever written but I saw the show for free and they asked us to help spread the word so I'm writing this entry anyway.
I've seen two Dada shows since moving to Chicago, the last Soire Dada and now this show, I've read a little bit about it and I also studied it very briefly in college. I won't profess to be an expert on the subject. In my limited experience, though, I'm starting to see a pattern.
Dada is supposed to be a rejection of art. Whatever art does, Dada is supposed to reject it. If art is commenting on society, Dada refuses to comment on society. If theatre tells a story or teaches a lesson, Dadaist theatre presents the audience with meaningless nonsense.
Yet even knowing what Dada is supposed to do, knowing that it's not supposed to mean anything, I still cannot help but look for meaning, find connections and invent my own lessons. I kind of had an inkling of this when I saw Soire Dada last year, but I think it took Metaluna and the Amazing Science of the Mind Reveu to put that into focus for me.
Joe's play takes a troupe of Dadaists from Germany and places them in a town called Metaluna in Indiana, ostensibly to help a doctor obsessed with the functions of the brain with his research. The result is more or less Dadaist chaos, a freewheeling collection of comic curiosities and strange moments of randomness. Thoroughly entertaining and engaging, you couldn't help but watch with wonder at the spectacle in front of you.
The show is worth it just for the sheer fun of that randomness. The fact that the actors, a very evenly talented cast, are so committed makes it all that much more enjoyable to watch. It's well directed and housed on a beautiful set. It's the kind of thing that you won't see anywhere else. But if you were to ask me for a detailed description of the plot I don't know that I could tell you.
So here you have a play, which is supposed to provide a meaningful story, about a group of people who reject the need for both meaning and story. It's a weird little quandary to be in as an audience member: I'm at a play, I'm sitting in the audience and there's the stage, I should be getting a story and yet I'm getting just enough plot to keep the crazy going. There was certainly a climax but it resolved no plot points. There was no d'enouement that I can remember. I didn't even realize the show was ending until the lights came down and the curtain call music started.
I left the theatre and my immediate thought was "What the hell just happened?"
But as I was walking home I thought back over what I just saw and my brain began to put some pieces together. By the time I had reached home I had something, not really a lesson or a moral but a little pattern that I had noticed. It took a little extra leg work, but I had found something for myself. It's an oddly satisfying experience.
Given that the show is loosely about the study of the brain as well as being a cacophony of Dadaist nonsense, you wonder if this kind of oddly satisfying experience - that of creating your own meaning from meaningless nonsense - isn't the whole point to begin with.
You can find out more about the show, including show times and location, at the WNEP Theatre Company's website.