Friday, November 2, 2018

"All is Calm" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

Dear #TCTheater friends, I just wanted to share with you a few thoughts about Theater Latte Da's annual holiday* show All is Calm, even though their handful of Minneapolis shows this weekends are sold out, and they're heading to Off-Broadway next week (congrats!). I saw it for the sixth time this week, and I've already written many words about how much I love it (you can read them all here). In just over an hour, this cast of ten men, all beautiful vocalists and actors, tells the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. Created by Latte Da's Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, the show takes us from the soldier's excitement at going off to war and having adventures, to the realization that war is truly awful, to that one day of peace they found in the trenches, when both sides put down their weapons and celebrated their common humanity.

The story is told continuously with no applause breaks, just song into text (letters, articles, poems, and other historical documents) and back to song again. The chorus cast sings a capella the gorgeous arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach. Each one of them (Ben Johnson, Benjamin Dutcher, David Darrow, Evan Tyler Wilson, James Ramlet, Mike McGowan, Riley McNutt, Rodolfo Nieto, Sasha Andreev, and Tom McNichols) has an incredible voice individually, and combined together they make a truly beautiful and stirring sound singing songs of the period, both Christmas carols and war songs. They read the words of real soldiers in a delightful plethora of British accents, as well as a few German (dialect coach Keely Wolter), followed by the name and regiment of the author, which brings history to life in a personal and poignant way.

The staging is minimal, with just a few crates to create some visual interest, and subtle lighting changes to help create the mood (designed by Marcus Dilliard). Real WWI soldiers wish they were dressed as well as this cast, in Trevor Bowen's chic array of layered black sweaters, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and kilts. Everything about the show is thoughtful, simple, effective, and perfect.

This event happened over a hundred years ago, but it's still sobering and timely to realize the true horror of war, when average citizens are sent to settle politicians' disagreements by killing each other. How does that make any sense? It's also inspirational to think that soldiers who one day were literally trying to kill each other, the next day found peace, companionship, and common ground. Maybe there is hope for us after all.

If you happen to be in NYC this November or December, pay a visit to the Sheen Center to experience this beautiful and moving show. The show is also touring around the country (a different cast); click here to find a location near you. It's one of those shows that absolutely casts a spell over you and transports you to another place, one of peace, calm, and goodness amidst the true horror of war.

*To read about all of the holiday shows I've seen this year, click here.