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REVIEW: All is Calm (Hennepin Theatre Trust)

Photo by George Byron Griffiths.

Peter Rothstein’s All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is an odd theatrical bird. This dramatic reading of soldiers’ letters and diary entries from World War 1 is woven together by exquisite singing of English, Welsh, French, and German-language folk songs, often in many parts. It’s no surprise that the show began as a collaboration between Theater Latté Da and Cantus – this is exactly the sort of repertoire that Cantus often shines a familiar-yet-enhanced light on. Is it a theatrical entertainment? Well, technically.

What All is Calm really feels like is a historical docudrama with a particularly strong soundtrack. If you’re not familiar with the story (yet) or the primary sources from which its script is derived, you’re in for a treat. If you know this story, know this music, and know these anecdotes, the show will be pleasant, but doesn’t really have any surprises. If you’ve seen it once, you probably won’t want to see it again next year. If you’re not familiar with the historical event, however, you’re in for a new look at World War 1 and in for quite a treat.

The biggest issue with All is Calm is that it can get very static – letter, song, letter, song, rinse, wash, repeat. The second issue is the the trouble telling who in the cast is saying or singing who – details conspicuously absent in the program. These are smoothed with frequent stage movement and a great variety in the choral arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy Takach, but what really carries the show is that the music is so good and extremely well-mixed. That’s worth braving the cold once.

All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 plays through December 18 at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis, MN.

Twin Cities Arts Reader