Tristan Tzara's The Gas Heart (La coeur a gaz opened in France in 1923. A result of the Paris Dada movement, The Gas Heart stars a gas heart whose sole function in the play is to "circulate widely". The identities of the other characters are meaningless and Tzara doesn't bother with personification, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, or any other pillar of "typical" theater. This "three-act hoax" serves, as all dada does, as a protest against "industrialized imbeciles", logic, tradition, and "the art of making two lines geometrically established as parallel meet on a canvas before our eyes in a reality which transposes other conditions and possibilities into a world".

From Theater of the Avant-Garde, 1890-1950 (Bert Cardullo and Robert Knopf, et al): "Language and anonymity are the weapons leveled a the spectator-enemy. When Tzara removed personalities and names, real characters, from the stage, he undermined the expectations of every viewer; a varitable bomb was thrown into the seats from the theater wings. In the play itself, there are a few identifiable semiotic strategies that undermine the traditional dramatic text. The beginning lines, for instance, are two seperate collocations of words that illustrate a class structure of haves ('statues jewels roasts') and have-nots ('cigar pimple nose').

"...Tzara is fighting the rationality of a world caught up in its own indifference and vanity....Throughout the play and right up to the end, The Gas Heart elevates the realm of pointless verbiage. The body parts who are our characters take turns at resistance in highly stylized and antisymbolic philosophizing which always leads back to the prevalent feeling of 'lag' that they all share. The exception to this rule is the case of Mouth. Throughout the text, it is Mouth who constantly exits, each time following a particularly senseless speech by another. During an early cexchange with Eye, both Mouth and Eye take turns repeating a question: 'The conversation is lagging, isn't it?...Yes, isn't it?...Obviously, isn't it?'. This very blunt, barren repartee fixes the limits of lingual/linguistic operation for Mouth. Anything outside ofvacant chitchat, Mouth considers too alien and complex."

This brilliant work of anti-art induces something of a mindfuck in me. Its lack of logic or coherence puts me at ease more than it puts me off, confuses me, or compells me to exclaim "this is crap!" (as it did my cousin). I agree with many of Tzara's ideas on the nature of art: that any intelligible art is journalism, and prefer the dadaist style to many others just because it is free of society's boring constraints.

And now, with no further ado:
The Gas Heart: Act I
The Gas Heart: Act II
The Gas Heart: Act III


Note: The links appearing in the play are of my addition, and did not appear in the original text.

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