Weird and Wacky But It Works

Temptation’s Snare mixes dance, music and text to wittily retell The Soldier’s Tale.

By - Mar 7th, 2014 10:16 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email
Jason Powell, Christal Wagner, musicians. Photo by Paul Roffolo.o.

Jason Powell, Christal Wagner, musicians. Photo by Paul Roffolo.

Dare I say this show is devilish fun?

Temptation’s Snare is quite a collaboration, expertly melding the talents of Present Music, Danceworks, and the New York-based Sleeping Giant composers collective. Staged at Next Act Theatre, the performance is part concert, part play and part dance and always fun—retelling the musical fable The Soldier’s Tale with Stravinsky’s score entwined with Sleeping Giant’s.

Each of the three collaborators could have told the story alone, but it was the combination that made this piece so delightful and new.

Stealing the show was special guest Jason Powell as Satan, who tempts The Violinist (dancer Christal Wagner) into trading her instrument for “The Solution,” promising to improve every arena of her life.

Powell wrote an original script for Temptation’s Snare, which somehow managed to rhyme without sounding rhyme-y and was funny without being hokey. And while Powell commanded the narration, Wagner and her Danceworks cohorts created worlds around them, supported by the wonky, off-beat score.

There are moments that teeter on cartoonish—the clarinet, bassoon and trombone make that goofy pwa-pwa noise as the dancers shuffle and grapple and leap. But there’s restraint and intelligence present in Dani Kuepper’s choreography that keeps Temptation’s Snare a smartly fluid tale, not a one-off punch line.

As The Violinist falls deeper into the devil’s grip, she loses herself to selfishness and greed. Some of the funniest moments come from Satan and his minions (Alberto Cambra, Kim Johnson-Rockafellow and Gina Laurenzi) dragging The Violinist further down—Powell cracks a subtle joke (probably in iambic pentameter, seriously, I wouldn’t put it past him given how clever this script is) and the minions slink and converge around Wagner with an irresistible sin-slither.

Christal Wagner. Photo by Paul Roffolo.

Christal Wagner. Photo by Paul Roffolo.

But then, the choreography turns and Wagner is left alone, contemplating her lost life, reaching for escape, moving in rewinding, desperate turns and getting nowhere. The score favors the violin, the upright bass and muted percussion.

More impressive still are all the “snares” in this work. Wagner, Cambra, Johnson-Rockafellow and Laurenzi get tangled up constantly, lifting and gripping and soundlessly toppling over each other without missing a beat.

You can just as easily get ensnared by the musicians, whose omnipresence you take for granted until you think, “what’s making that noise?” and end up staring at the bassist, who’s playing so bizarrely that you’re momentarily hypnotized.

Temptation’s Snare is one of those sideways, ass-backward type things that just works. Talent and imagination pours from the retold fable, and wouldn’t you know it—there’s even a moral at the end of the story.

Temptation’s Snare continues at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water Street, with performances at 7:30 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Purchase tickets here

0 thoughts on “Review: Weird and Wacky But It Works”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I wish that I had been able to see this performance, as “Talent and imagination pours from the retold tale, and wouldn’t you now it- there’s even a moral at the end of the story”, as you write! Thanks so much for this review!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *