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Theater Review: Ambitious play at OU proves rewarding

Oklahoman Published: April 17, 2009
NORMAN — A play that tries to do almost too much — dealing with love, Lenin, Dada and the "death of art” in a little over two hours — gets enough of it right to make a vivid impression on spectators. "The Dada Play,” a script by visiting Canadian author Mieko Ouchi, is on stage through Sunday at the University of Oklahoma’s Lab Theatre in Old Science Hall.

Gregory Rottman gets across the tragic-romantic intensity, bordering on obsession, of Hugo Ball, who founded the Dada movement at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916 in reaction to World War I.

Natalie Steinke gives the right sharp, bittersweet edge to the song-poems of Emmy Hemmings, who embraces the Bohemian lifestyle, only to find her lover, Ball, "disappearing” into madness.

Jake Buchanan is low key but convincing as Richard Hulsenbeck, the third side of the romantic triangle, who loves Emmy enough to do little "foolish” things with her, like holding his hands in place for a yarn project.

Nicholas Bartell communicates the stern demeanor and ironic alienation of a Bertolt Brecht-like director who doesn’t believe in democracy in the theatre.

Bartell is much less believable, however, in his second part as V.I. Lenin, playing the Russian revolutionary with a thick accent and a hard-to-believe attraction to the artistic life of the Dadaists.

Madison Niederhauser brings just enough overkill to the poetic manifestos and power plays of Tristan Tzara, and Ashley B.

"The Dada Play”
→When: 8 p.m. today, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

→Where: Old Science Hall, 640 Parrington Oval

→Information: 325-4101 or online at

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