On Christmas Eve in 1914 in the trenches on the Western Front of The Great War, German and Great Britain troops called an unofficial truce.

by Ann Marie Cusella

All is Calm can be seen at the MusicalFare Theatre in Amherst, NY

The Christmas Truce

On Christmas Eve in 1914 in the trenches on the Western Front of The Great War, German and Great Britain troops called an unofficial truce of their own. This unprecedented event, called the Christmas Truce, has been the subject of many books, movies and plays over the years.

For All Is Calm, Playwright Peter Rothstein decided to use the form of a radio play – music and text. Vocal Arrangements are by Erick Lichte & Timothy C. Takach.

The words spoken by the actors are all taken from letters, journals, poetry, war documents, inscriptions on graves, and an old radio drama. While fighting continued in other parts of the line, the Christmas Truce troops stopped fighting and started singing. Thousands came out of the trenches and shook hands, exchanged food, drink, and addresses, showed each other pictures from home, helped each other bury their dead, and some played a game of football (soccer) in No Man’s Land, the area between the trenches that was surrounded by barbed wire.

Some of the songs are what were called trench songs, which were often comical and bawdy. There are popular songs of the day, both sentimental and patriotic, and Christmas songs from different countries. The songs and text together form a coherent and absorbing history of those remarkable two days.

All is Calm features an amazing set design

Soldiers’ Stories

A cast of ten men expertly portray various soldiers as they quote what each has written. They are at times, English, Irish, Scots, Welsh, French, Italian (the Pope has a few lines), and German. Their voices meld together in beautiful harmonies as they take the journey from civilian life to the war-torn trenches of the Western Front. What began as a lark for British men, who were sure the war would be over by Christmas, so one had to get into it as quickly as possible so as not to not miss any of the fun, turned into an endless nightmare as the men lived and died in the muck and mire of the vast line of trenches. Then came the quiet two days of silenced ordnance, and camaraderie and good cheer, only to become a memory as the men again took up arms against each other. All of that is portrayed in an 80-minute dive into the hearts and minds of ordinary soldiers.

The actors are Christopher Andreana, Kyle J. Baran, Christian Brandjes, Louis Colaiacovo, Chris Cummings, Bob Mazierski, Ricky Needham, Marc Sacco, Darryl Semira, and Dave Spychalski. They adeptly become different soldiers with different accents and in different moods. On the way out of the theater, I heard several people comment on the “beautiful harmonies” mentioned above. Their voices are truly a highlight of the play. Soft and sweet, inspiring, grief stricken and joyous, their voices add both delight and gravitas.

Veterans receive a discount for admission to All is Calm

A Different Kind of Christmas Play

Set Design is by Dyan Burlingame, who recently won the Artie award for The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. The entire set is mud-colored, including the floor, with corrugated metal and wire shoring up the sides of the trenches, giving the effect of a wearisome and filthy environment mitigated by the deep blue night sky the men gaze upon as they stand with their rifles placed on the parapet.

The play is Staged & Directed by Susan Drozd, who adroitly uses the set and the actors to provide a taste of what it must have been like in the trenches of that “War to End All Wars” over a century ago. Explosions, etc., are by Chris Cavanagh, costumes by Kari Drozd, hair, wigs, and makeup by Susan Drozd, and properties by Kevin Fahey.

This is a different kind of Christmas play. It is an engrossing look into a slice of history that is both thought provoking and entertaining.

Added note: Tickets for Veterans and their families are discounted for this play at MusicalFare Theatre.

Dates, Tickets and More Information

All is Calm can be seen at the MusicalFare Theatre until December 12, 2021.

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