Capital Fringe’s ‘Manifesto!’ is suitably unserious about dada
By Fiona Zublin
Monday, July 11, 2011
Dada, in case anyone slept through art history class, was a movement that was inherently anti-art. It is purposefully meaningless, every piece of nonsense a rejection of the art world. In a way, Dada is all about the confidence to say what is and is not art — but mostly it becomes a philosophical Mobius strip. Everything we say is meaningful is a joke we’re playing on ourselves, it tells us, and when we as an audience find meaning in it, we’re proving the natural human tendency to make nonsense profound.
If any other company had attempted “Manifesto!,” a mishmash of Dada philosophy and performance art, it might have been a disaster. But Happenstance Theater routinely offers Fringe shows that are polished and beautiful, full of well-thought-out visuals and, in this case, charming and impressive musical accompaniment from Karen Hansen. It’s tough to pull off such a disjointed evening of performance art, but something this lovely to look at doesn’t really require rationality. It’s a loving tribute to the surreal rather than a self-important rejection of the idea that anything really matters.
Inasmuch (and it is not much) as “Manifesto!” has a story, it involves a New Girl (Sabrina Mandell) who finds herself embroiled in a Dada cabaret and figures out that the way to get along is to embrace her own nonsensical nature — in other words, make stuff up and act as if you know what you’re doing. She learns one of the most important rules of adulthood: No matter how sure of themselves everyone else seems, if it sounds like nonsense, it probably is. So you might as well have fun with it.