MIT production of Soldier's Tale insipidStravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat, MIT Dramashop, MIT Dance Workshop and the MIT Chamber Players, Kresge Auditorium, March 14 & 15.
The Dramashop production of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat is unfortunately irredeemably ream ream reamdull. It is dominated by the unimaginative choreography of Beth Soll, whose dancers are first encountered jumping around pointlessly as the orchestra gets set up. Despite one interesting solo by Soll, the dancing was dominated by unsophisticated and stylized movement, much of it clumsily done.
The inadequacies of dance dissipated the dramatic line central to the piece. The tedium was worsened by the gratingly annoying voice of Joan Tolentino, The Narrator. There were some nice moments to the acting of G. Albert Ruesga (The Soldier) and Stuart Rumsey (The Devil); Rumsey, as The Devil dressed up as an old lady in red, was quite evil. But inept direction made much of the rest of the action crass as well as loose.
The best thing to do was to try and close ones eyes and enjoy the music, for, under Marcus Thompson's direction, the MIT Chamber Players put on a good performance. They had earlier played Varese's Octandre, and a well-balanced and colorful rendition it was, too. The Stravinsky was also played sharply, with evocative programmatic content contributed by each member of the Ensemble; the clear lines characteristic of Stravinsky were kept tautly drawn, with particularly strong performance on brass and by Kathy Winkler, whose solo violin sang the Soldier's song with deep commitment. It's a shame the poverty of the activity on stage detracted so heavily from the power of Thompson's careful orchestral direction; unfortunately, the show as a whole was quite simply a bore.
Prices for this production -- $5 for students and $8 for others -- set a bad precedent. MIT students are price sensitive, as was clearly demonstrated by an almost empty Kresge Auditorium. On the other hand, the prices might have been doing the absent audience a favor.