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Port Tobacco Players Stalag 17

By • Sep 23rd, 2006 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of Port Tabacco Players’ production of Stalag 17 [MP3 4:23 1.3MB]

Lisa Kay: I had the opportunity to go see the Friday night opening performance of Port Tobacco Players production of Stalag 17. Stalag 17 was written by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski. The setting is a World War II POW camp in Nazi Germany and the playwrights were former POW’s.

You may be familiar with the movie Stalag 17 which starred William Holden. The original script became a classic movie- as a matter of fact it was on TV this week. The script deals with the lives of a dozen or so men and their Nazi guards. Specifically, it deals with their trials as they discover they have lived over a year with a spy in their midst. When the show opens two escapees have just been shot down and the men are sure there is a mole in their midst.

This was a really diverse cast…some seasoned veterans and professional actors as well as newbies on stage. The all male cast did some really good ensemble work creating a very believable World War 2 barrack right here in LaPlata, Maryland. The hard nose sergeant, Sefton is a tough guy from the poor part of Boston and takes a serious beating from his comrades when they think he is their mole. Mark Anderson delivered an edgy, intense performance that kept this show together and was a strong leading man. Some wonderful stage time was part of the charisma of Lars Peter Highby doing his Jimmie Stewart, Edward Robinson and John Wayne impressions. Kudos also to the intense work of Darren Longley playing Price and the powerhouse character of the self-centered Stosh, played by Rob Leeper.

The script moved along fairly well- the show was 2 and 1/2 hours long with the two intermissions. The actors who played P.O.W.’s were on stage the entire time – except for beatings and delousing and hiding and… well you’ll have to go see it yourself.

Some of the most powerful performers said nothing but were commanding in their performances. The brooding dark intensity of Steve Charnock as “Horney” the P.O.W. who spent a year in solitary is riveting and Charnock keeps it going throughout the whole scene. In direct contrast, Keith Linville was a breath of fresh, okay crass, air… and brought an extra vibrancy to each scene he entered.

The set is very realistic, John Merritt did a masterful job, and the lighting and props created a very realistic ambiance of a World War II barracks. The costumes were good. The actors were telling me they even had authentic patches and things that they had retrieved from other World War II vets and POWs. although the men did not look like they had been living in the same set of clothes for a year. Fortunately, the men were in their boxers for most of act 2 and 3 so that stopped being a minor distraction. Okay, it was a distraction to some of the women in the audience because some of those men have really nice legs.

Some minor reality checks were the clean shaven faces, neat haircuts and well-fed actors. Very few of the men looked as if they had been living on gruel for a year. I guess its hard to cast a dozen men who weigh in at a hundred pounds…as many of the real P.O.W.’s did.

Director Rich Highby has a knack for creating a gritty realism that allows us to empathize with these characters and we did. There is an appropriate pace that seems to reflect ennui or boredom, that even in the mist of trials that the soldiers must have experienced. You can only get so excited about you own personal military drama when you are a freezing, starving prisoner waiting to die. But it makes for good theater.

If you like military drama, men in shorts, or James Cagney impersonations you don’t want to miss Port Tobacco Players production of Stalag 17. Stalag 17 runs until October 8th. For ticket information visit their website at www.ptplayers.com.

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works nationally and internationally as an opera singer, coach, teacher, conductor and stage director. She is the CEO of Saltnote Stageworks, a non-profit corporation that promotes education & performance opportunities for emerging artists.

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