Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cleveland Play House/Cleveland Orchestra/GroundWorks DanceTheater: A Soldier's Tale (Fusion Fest 2010)

With such a veritable wealth of cultural institutions and raw talent in the Northeast Ohio area, covering nearly (if not) every possible aspect of the arts I'm surprised that collaborations don't happen more frequently. (It may be worth noting that while this performance was a sell out, I spotted several members of the Orchestra and at least one Cleveland Museum of Art staffer in the audience: This cross pollination is always a sign I take as good)

As the three institutions (The Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Play House, and GroundWorks Dance Theater) proved with the performances of Catch and Release (By Esa-Pekka Salonen) A Soldier's Tale (Libretto by Kurt Vonnegut), both with music by Igor Stravinsky such collaborations can be fantastic, drawing on the strengths of the parts to produce an fascinating whole.

The venue, the blackbox-ish/3/4-round Brooks Theater was more intimate than any dance or music show I've attended (excepting house concerts, of course), and among the more intimate I've seen straight drama presented in hightened the connection between dancer, actor, musician, and audience.
The players in the pieces were also interesting: The members of the Cleveland Orchestra performing in this piece are not musicians I've heard perform in small ensemble before; with the exception of one actor, the actors were all new to me; and I've somehow never managed the pleasure of seeing GroundWorks perform.

Catch and Release was a more traditional dance number with video projected from above, and it moved with such dispatch as to make attempts to focus on any one aspect (dance, music, video) for any substantial period of time fruitless: You quickly learn to sit back and enjoy the whole. As one audience member behind me commented, "There sure was a lot of catching and releasing".

I've enjoyed reading Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, still one of the best books I've read; Slaughterhouse Five, I may need to reread now that it's not at academic gunpoint.

A Soldier's Tale was quite well done, involving actors, dance, musicians, and video (this time on the rear wall) and sometimes blurring the line between actor and dancer. The dialogue was witty and well delivered, the music beautifully played, the dance well woven into the story. I didn't realize prior to the ending that the libretto for A Soldier's Tale was based loosely on the true story of Eddie Slovik, a World War II draftee who was executed -- the only soldier since the Civil War -- for desertion.

The only shame was that this production only saw four performances, the last of which was the one occurring this afternoon.

Musicians: Tito Munoz, conductor; Jung-Min Amy Lee, violin; Charles Carleton, bass; Robert Woolfrey, clarinet; Barrick Stees, bassoon; Jack Sutte, trumpet; Sachar Israel, trombone; Marc Damoulakis, percussion. (All members of The Cleveland Orchestra)
Cast: Robert Ellis, general; Justin Tatum, soldier; Zac Hoogendyk, MP, Lindsay Iuen, Red Cross Girl.
Dancers: Amy Miller, Felise Bagley, Kelly Brunk, Damien Highfield, Sarah Perrett (All members of GroundWorks DanceTheater)
at The Brooks Theater, Cleveland Play House.


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