Intermission: Our Friends THE ENEMY: The 1914 Christmas Truce

UYC

Like the song says, it’s Christmas time in the city!  And yes, we are all busily bustling about, enjoying the season, here, there and everywhere. But take time away from those fluffy, frothy, sugary children’s Christmas tales presented this time of year. You know how they end!  Rather take approximately 55 minutes and spend them with a unique, reality based holiday story.  Try and catch “Our Friends THE ENEMY,” a live, staged war drama intelligently developed and respectfully delivered in the form of a one man show until December 20th, 2015 at the Lion on Theater Row.

This past year, the nations of the world have respectfully acknowledged and honored the service and sacrifice of the terribly young soldiers of WWI during this 100th anniversary year. I myself was fortunate enough to have spent a sad, silencing day touring the actual peninsula of Gallipoli, an infamous WWI battle site – and ultimately a WWI grave site.  There are no adjectives to describe my feelings that amazing day touring such an important corner of our world.

In light of the recent shattering world events, “Our Friends THE ENEMY” arrives at the very right moment in time this December 2015.  This tour de force showcases its multi-talented author and actor, Alex Gwyther, as a WWI soldier who movingly and innocently relates the historical “tale” of the famed World War I Christmas truce of 1914.   The horrors of war in the lice infested, muddy, bloody trenches of WWI actually came to a halt for a celebration of Christmas that year.  The carnage is not only given an all too short respite, but actual brief friendships between the way too young to die English and German soldiers are formed, greetings and cigarettes exchanged and a giddy, adolescent soccer pick-up game forms during this impromptu, short lived truce.  “No Man’s Land” is truly neutralized, and “Silent Nights” are honored.  There was, indeed – albeit an all too brief – glorious display of humanity.  But as Alex notes, it was not one single incident, but a series of incidents- most unknown to each other – taking place which constituted this fragile peace.  However we don’t need a survival lesson to know that this soldier’s premature, tragic advance from innocence to experience is inevitable.

Alex Gwyther has obviously done his homework and uncovered the serious truths and facts necessary to not only present, but ultimately prove this century old accounting of such a remarkable event.    So beautifully and simply, both in the staging and in the dialogue, does he capture the feelings, facts and facets of war – from the absurd to the sublime – represented thru the delivery and movement of this solo soldier as he thoughtfully enacts this drama from page to stage.  Perhaps that is precisely the very reason he gets such pathos into his performance i.e. by writing it himself, he keeps it close to his heart.

Constantly and consistently we hear every Holiday season how the real meaning of Christmas is lost among the tinsel, ribbons and mall shopping.  I have the perfect response –   catch “Our Friends THE ENEMY” for a reaffirmation of the love, honor and dignity that seems to get lost in Christmas morning’s discarded wrapping paper.

So Bravo Alex, you created a moving, intimate piece of theater.  Thank you for not only a lesson in history, but a timeless emotional journey.  What is real is usually quite simple – and always invisible to the eye.

By: Joanne Theodorou