No man’s land, in the middle of a battlefield, is the last place you’d look for peace on Earth. But on Christmas Eve in 1914, such a hush famously fell over the Western Front during World War I. British and German troops defied orders and observed an informal ceasefire. Soldiers dropped their weapons and extended their hands. Talk about a story that sings.
In the a capella musical All Is Calm, it does so exquisitely. Created and directed by Peter Rothstein, of Theater Latte Da in Minneapolis, the show at the Sheen Center through Dec. 30 is meticulously made. It is woven together by period songs, carols, letters, poetry and military documents mirroring the atmosphere before (“Come On and Join”) and after (“I Want to Go Home”) the grim reality of war sinks in. The uplifting, albeit brief, suspension of the fighting is heralded, fittingly, by “Silent Night.”
The staging is striking in its simplicity. Ten men, dressed in black uniforms, stand against a dark set that’s empty except for a few crates. There are shimming shafts of light and a few flakes of snow. That’s pretty much it for special effects. The performers, voices raised singularly and in groups as arranged by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, are special enough. Running just 75 minutes, the holiday presentation reminds that good things come in small packages. Poignant things too.