Long live scandal! The Super Spectacular Dada Adventures of Hugo Ball is raucous cacophony of improvised chaos. Prepare to be confused, confounded, outraged, uncomfortable, and sent into uproarious laughter, only to immediately be insulted.
This, my friends, is actually the point with Pointless Theatre’s production. Dada theater, originally created by Hugo Ball in the early 20th century in Europe, was an artistic and literary movement based on nonsense and absurdity. It was also used as a tool to protest against war and make strong political statements. Using puppetry, mask, and movement, the actors take us on a magical journey into the life and times of Hugo Ball.
The stage has a make-shift proscenium seemingly made of paper mache. Like a cabaret, the scenes are announced while titled cards are set up on a stand, stage left. Our handsome host greets us at the top of the show in fishnets, a bowler, and sparkling gold suspenders. With practically a full house, a large number of them supporters of Pointless Theatre, the audience shouted, cheered, and sang along with the performers and inspired others to join in the fun.
Audience participation is a necessary and effective tool for the success of this show, and I will say, they make it particularly difficult not to participate.
The puppets in this production are nothing like Bert and Ernie and would probably blast Elmo into oblivion. However, adding puppets to any show always brings a sense of enchantment and memories of our childhood.
There are a variety of puppets used. The Hugo puppet looks like a dangly marionette made out of cans, his head a red ball. He is controlled by two puppeteers, one holding the ball and one side of the body while the other person works the opposite limbs. There are many times that Hugo loses his head in some crazy scene and you see a red ball bouncing about the stage.
There are also small hand puppets a la “The Sound of Music”, shadow puppets, and others that are manipulated as they hang around the necks of performers. At times the puppeteers will detach themselves and continue the movement of the puppet in their own body only to return to it at the end of the sequence which makes for beautiful storytelling.
Even though there is no particular prowess in puppetry skill amongst the cast, there was certainly creative use of them. With epic battles, dancing, puppet fondling, opera, profanity, nudity and even a happy sing-a-long, The Super Spectacular Dada Adventures of Hugo Ball is a show for the truly eclectic theater goer.
The Super Spectacular Dada Adventures of Hugo Ball has 4 more performances in the Mead Theatre at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th Street NW, Washington, DC.
Brynn rates this 3 out of 5
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