Eliot Feld's "A Soldier's Tale" presents a situation rather than tells a story. This can be effective. Sometimes the less one has to tell, the more one has time to say; and character development and rich incidents embroidering a thin story line can produce great theater. But Feld's "Tale," which his company performed Saturday night at Kennedy Center's Opera House, presents stereotyped characters not monumental enough to be symbols in a situation that is totally predictable from the curtain's rise.
Nearly all of Feld's ballets have obvious antecedents and "A Soldier's Tale" is reminiscent of Balanchine's "Prodigal Son." But Feld's soldier is a Prodigal Orphan and, having no father against whom to rebel or from whom to beg forgiveness, he is simply seduced, at great length, and to little purpose.
Jeff Satinoff gave a touching portrayal of the hapless soldier. His limp torso and arms made him seem a sawdust puppet. Feld himself danced Pimp, an evil being who materialized from the shadows, his restless fingers like long white maggots, putrefying all they touched. As the two whores, Mary Randolph and Gloria Brisbin had little to do but wiggle and pose, their black-stockinged legs indicating their character more than did the choreography.
Feld's new "Play Bach" looks like a piano student's revenge for long, summer afternoons spent chained to the keyboard. The ballet is little more than a series of exercises and one of the recurring movement motifs has the dancers simultaneously patting their heads and rubbing their stomachs.
Fine performances of Feld's quirky, inventive "Harbinger," his first ballet, and "The Gods Amused," his remake of "Apollo," completed the program.