The Washington Ballet
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
May 9, 2013
by George Jackson
copyright 2013 by George Jackson
The problem starts with the literary source, Ernest Hemingway’s novel. Unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, which choreographer Septime Webre and composer Billy Novick made into a promising ballet a couple of seasons ago, there is no clear classical plot line, no organically developed course of action, no beginning-middle-end in “The Sun Also Rises” by much the same creative team. Hemingway keeps reiterating a single dilemma over and over again – his hero Jake’s inability to consummate with the beautiful Brett, the love of his life. It really makes no difference whether it happens in Paris, France or in Pamplona, Spain. The characters do not grow. Hemingway could have turned this into an Abelard and Heloise tragedy of sublimation but didn’t. Jake and Brett’s situation remains a bad joke, something static. On stage, little of the novel’s situation is transformed into action, personality or atmosphere. It persists as text, words, formula projected as supertitles the audience is expected to read. Much of what we experience in this long, 2-act work are attempts to distract our attention from the failure to fashion a story that can be told thru movement.