“All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” a co-production of The Vortex Theatre and Mother Road Theatre Company
BY LISA BARROW
World War I — the Great War — lives on in our collective memory as perhaps the most pointless, gruesome clash of the 20th century. Thirty million were killed and wounded in a conflict that endured four years and introduced the world to chemical warfare, aerial bombardment and genocide as an instrument of war.
But in December 1914, an understanding of the war’s human cost was just beginning to dawn on both sides, which at first had assumed that the war would be over in a matter of weeks. Unprepared for the new realities of poison gas and heavy artillery, both sides instead had suffered incomprehensible losses. A stalemate ground the war’s momentum to a halt just months into the conflict, as each side literally dug in, scraping out muddy, miserable trenches that stretched from the Swiss Alps to the English Channel along the conflagration’s Western Front.
It was here in the war’s first year that a moment of grace erupted apropos of nothing, never to be repeated. During the Christmas Truce of 1914, as strains of Christmas carols began to float over the wasteland between trenches, a few men on either side laid down their arms and ventured into the no man’s land to fraternize with the enemy. They exchanged cigarettes, told stories and even started spontaneous soccer matches until forced by their superiors to retreat to their separate sides.
“All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” a co-production of The Vortex Theatre and Mother Road Theatre Company, gives voice to this near-miracle of history through the songs and words of the men who were there. As a reminder of the human hearts beating in the breasts of so-called enemies — constructed through the artifice of political machinations — it’s a drama that couldn’t be more timely.
Written by Peter Rothstein, directed by Julia Thudium and featuring music direction by Lina Ramos with Cheryl Sharps, “All is Calm” runs Dec. 4-27 at The Vortex (2900 Carlisle NE), 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. You also can catch the show at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 17 (Thursdays) or at 6 p.m. on Christmas Day. Tickets are $19-$22; see vortexabq.org or motherroad.org for details.
Throbbing hearts of the ice age
“Is it a boy, or is it a girl?” asks an assistant in a lab coat and latex exam gloves. She is gaping open-mouthed at Beloved, whose labor — conducted to a symphony of animal noises — has been hidden from the audience. The Scientist, who appears exhilarated by what’s happening, thrusts her head into view. Her fervent voice rings out. “It’s a mammoth!”
“MAMMOTH” looks very likely to be the surreal, hyper-elusive love story you’ve been (unknowingly) waiting all year to see. Its settings include a scientist’s lab and a frozen tundra; its actions the smothering of a beating, disembodied mammoth heart; and its music a song that is quite explicitly only about tusks. A “paleo-fable” that examines romance and destruction in poetic-yet-plain language that woos and baffles in equal measure, “MAMMOTH” promises an experimentalism grounded in heady ideas.
Created by Buran Theatre of New York City, which describes itself as an “ensemble of disparate multidisciplinary and intergenerational artists who joyfully and anarchically reconfigure narrative, form, production, gender and genre to develop ambitious theatre productions,” the play makes its way to Tricklock Performance Laboratory (110 Gold SW) with its original directors, writer Adam R. Burnett and Anne Cecelia Haney, but re-cast with Burqueñas including Donna Jewell, Lauren Poole, Lisa Nevada and others. Buran company member Casey Mraz, who composed the original music, is a UNM alum.
“MAMMOTH” runs for two nights only: at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11 and 12. Get your $12 tickets at the door. For more info, visit the event page at bit.ly/mammothABQ and burantheatre.com.
Lisa Barrow is a member of the Dirt City Writers collective. Visit her on the interwebs at facebook.com/LisaBarrowLikesWords. She most recently served as arts & lit and web editor at Weekly Alibi.