'All is Calm' delivers joy – pure and simple

December 19, 2008.By Ed Huyck, MinnPost.

Amid all the glittering lights, the endless yards of shiny packaging and the barrage of advertising for the perfect gift, it’s easy to miss the simple joy of Christmas.

The Cratchits knew it. Linus knew it. And the soldiers hunkered down in the trenches in 1914 knew it. Their amazing moment -- when enemy soldiers put down their arms and joined one another other in seasonal celebration -- makes up the framework of “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” a co-production of Theatre Latte Da, Cantus and the Hennepin Theatre Trust running through this weekend.

The simplicity isn’t just about the story, but also the understated staging that puts all of the focus on the words of everyday soldiers and the music they sang. The nine male voices in Cantus blend beautifully throughout, while the arrangements of Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach add emotional shades you would not have imagined lay within the songs. "Silent Night,” for example, turns almost into a dirge as the singers repeat the "all is calm” line, foreshadowing the return of a war that would drag on for nearly four more years.

Set against the simplest of stages -- a black backdrop that turns into a star field, a few risers and boxes -- the music and the remembrances (brought to life by a trio of actors) fill in the details of life in the trenches, and the moment when the soldiers took it onto themselves to treat the enemy as humans. Creator Peter Rothstein has crafted a piece that deserves to be a holiday tradition -- one with a message that should always be heard.

"All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914." Through Sunday (Dec. 21) at the Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis. Tickets: $25-$35; seating is limited. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787, or go online at Ticketmaster or the Hennepin Theatre Trust.