Sunday, November 29, 2015

Theatre Review: "All is Calm" at Mustard Seed defies the masters of war

The cast of All is Calm
Photo: John Lamb
I missed it the first two times it was presented in 2013 and 2014, but last night I finally got to see Mustard Seed Theatre's much-praised "All is Calm" and I'm glad I finally did. You will be, too.

With a script by Peter Rothstein and musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, this story of the remarkable Christmas truce of 1914—a spontaneous outbreak of peace that occurred at multiple points along the trenches in France—combines splendid and often quite complex a cappella singing with readings of letters from soldiers and other historical documents. It's powerfully moving and beautifully performed by a fine ensemble of eleven of our town's most talented singing actors.

Attired in nondescript period uniforms, the actors take on various roles, moving between the German and Allied sides of the stage.  It's a smart theatrical device that reminds us (as Peter Weiss wrote in "Marat/Sade") that in a war all soldiers ultimately want the same thing: "Not to lie under the earth but to walk upon it without crutches."

Deanna Jent's knowing direction keeps this short and powerful one act moving along without making it feel hurried.  The big emotional moments, like the singing of overlapping versions of "Silent Night" and "Stille Nacht", are allowed to breathe, which maximizes their impact.

At a time when opportunistic politicians are pushing an agenda of hate, fear, and eternal war, this is a play that everyone needs to see. As we used to ask back in the 1960s, "what if they gave a war and nobody came?"

"All is Calm" runs through December 20th at the Fontbonne Fine Arts Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd. For more information, call (314) 719-8060 or visit the web site at

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