The student production of “The Soldier’s Tale” premiered on Wednesday night, directed by Agata Sorotokin ’19, Olivia Facini ’19 and Alice Yang ’19 and produced by Matteo Rosati ’19. The production, written by Igor Stravinsky and Swiss author Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz as a Russian folktale featuring music, theatre and dancing, explores the relationship between fortune and happiness, as told through the eyes of a young pauper-soldier entangled in a deal with the devil.
Sorotokin, who serves as the production and musical director, chose to put on “The Soldier’s Tale” after a lifetime of experience as a pianist and chamber musician. She, Facini and Yang met through the freshman Directed Studies program and were inspired by influences of classical literature.
The highlight of this production is the music, performed by Alex Wang ‘19 (violin), Joe Blumberg ’19 (cornet), Adrian Lin ’19 (percussion), Jacob Sweet ‘18 (clarinet), Gabriel Levine LAW ’19 (bassoon), Alexander Walden MUS ’17 (trombone) and Aedan Lombardo ’20 (bass). Many of the musicians are Yale Symphony Orchestra-affiliated as either current members or alumni. Wang is especially notable for his auxiliary role in providing the music for the soldier’s fiddle scenes. The cohesion between the music and the scenes — especially in the beginning of the play — is extraordinary.
Although theatre rookie Liam Appelson ’19 acts admirably as the soldier, it is clear that his strength is in dance. His movements are the strongest of the performance, graceful and strong and always delivered dynamically. While other dancers occasionally lack synchronization amongst themselves, Appelson hits every count. The chemistry between Appelson and the other dancers is also evident.
Kohl Weisman ’19 plays the devil antagonist, bringing the character to life with wit and a powerful voice. He is the primary nondancing member of the cast, but nonetheless he is able to match the performance of his peers. His acting skills shine, and his dramatic take of the devil excels.
The standout actor of the production is the narrator, Adam Lohman ’18. He voices several dialogues, all the while capturing the attention of the audience from behind a podium. His expressions are unparalleled. Though he is primarily restricted to a small section of the stage, in some scenes he was integrated as an antithesis to the devil.
The production is bolstered by an all-female ensemble cast which seamlessly transitions from scene to scene. Notably, true to the original production, none of the women involved speak during the performance. However, given the bare-bones original text and lack of live recordings at the time of conception, the directors and cast were able to make many creative choices.
For example, Facini, the princess, director and choreographer, designed all of the production’s movements. She actively empowered the traditional princess character with a few key choreography choices. “I wanted the princess to have some autonomy of her own,” she told me. She has danced since she was two years old, and specializes in modern dance and ballet.
Similar to the original text, the story ends ambiguously and leaves the audience wanting more. Afterwards, audience members noted confusion about what exactly happened to the soldier. Facini said that the conclusion purposefully leaves interpretation to the audience, as in the original text.
In the performance I attended, there were some inconsistencies with lighting, but overall it went off without a hitch. The prop transitions were smooth, and the costuming was simple but effective. The quick changes between scenes were also impressive. Set and costume design were historically accurate and added to the believability of the story. Performers used every inch of the stage, invoking the attention of audience members at all sides.
Overall, the production is authentic, interesting and thought-provoking. Although the Wednesday night audience was small, the cast and musicians performed brilliantly and showcased tripartite talent. Rather than individuals being jack-of-all-trades, each member has clear specializations as intended in the original context. The direction is also noteworthy, considering the immense amount of creativity poured into stage design, play interpretation and movements. Impressively, the choreography is completely original. The venue size was perfect, allowing cast members to venture into the audience at key moments.
“The Soldier’s Tale” has two remaining shows in the Morse/Stiles Crescent Theater on Friday at 4 p.m. and Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are free for all students. Contact Annie Cheng at email@example.com .