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    Christian Coulson, Jake Szczypek in Jody Oberfelder: The Soldier's Tale
    Photo by Paula Court
    Christian Coulson, Jake Szczypek

    You Can Check Out, But You Can Never Leave

    Jody Oberfelder adapts The Soldier's Tale to now


    The Soldier's Tale never seems to go out of date, unfortunately. As Jody Oberfelder reminds us, humorously, in her new evening-length take on Stravinsky's classic tale, soldiers returning from war will always face temptation and perdition, and the Devil has the upper hand.

    Choreography by: Jody Oberfelder.
    Dancers: Jake Szczypek, Rebekah Morin, ChristinaNoel Reaves, Christian Coulson
    Musicians: Sheila Reinhold, Richard Sosinsky, Owen Kotler, Eric Holtje, Thomas Hoyt, Richard Clark, Robby Ameen
    Music by: Igor Stravinsky.
    Set design by: Juergen Riehm.
    Costumes by: Liz Prince.
    Lighting design by: Greg Goff.
    Production stage manager: Andrew Blais.
    Text: C.F. Ramuz, adapted by Jody Oberfelder.
    Animated graphics: John Frattalone.
    Film: Miya Hirabayashi, Elisabeth Fraser, Trent Bailey.
    Pace University's Michael Schimmel Center
    June 9-11, 2011

    Jake Szczypek as the soldier, Rebekah Morin as the devil, ChristinaNoel Reaves as the princess and Christian Coulson as the narrator are all excellent, and the onstage music keeps things lively and historically accurate. From the moment the soldier stands in line at an airport security checkpoint, though, it is clear that this will be an updated adaptation. Other modern flavors, like a reality-TV gameshow, burlesque performance, and a stop-animation movie tracking the characters and musicians through NYC, give things pizzazz and humor.

    Szcyzpek's high-stepping soldier is a lovable mix of gallant, innocent and striving; we root for him all the way to the end. Morin is a lively and enticing devil, and Reaves' blank-slate princess gets an impressive aerial sequence, full of athletic grace. Coulson shines as amiable bartender and active stagehost and holds his own against the visual and musical onslaught around him.

    ChristinaNoel Reaves, Jake Szczypek in Jody Oberfelder: The Soldier's Tale  
    Photo by Paula Court  
    ChristinaNoel Reaves, Jake Szczypek
    This is such a charming and fresh L'histoire du soldat. Oberfelder's in-program quote of Stravinsky says it best: "It is impossible for anyone to fully grasp the art of a bygone period, to penetrate beneath the obsolete form and discern the author's meaning in a language no longer spoken, unless he has a comprehensive lively feeling for the present, and unless he consciously participates in the life around him."

    This "comprehensive lively feeling for the present" comes across throughout, with one beautiful collaboration after another: The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra brings Stravinsky's score to life, set design by Juergen Riehm lends richness, Liz Prince costumes pop, visual design by John Frattalone feels fresh and accurate and the mid-piece movie by Miya Hirabayashi, Elisabeth Fraser and Trent Bailey Photography could stand on its own.

    A couple of sequences stick: Morin's red-balloon burlesque number is silly and fun, and watching Reaves' princess transform from a couch potato into a giant violin is one of those fantastical moments that makes live performance magic.

    Lighting design by Greg Goff and overall performance quality round out the list of elements that make this Tale lush and complete, a smallscale theatrical treat.

    JUNE 16, 2011

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