SHOW: A Great War

GENRE: Theater

GROUP: Iron Age Theatre Company

ATTENDED: Sept. 10, 7:00 pm, The Maas Space, 1325 N. Randolph St.

CLOSES: Sept. 27

BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: An unbreakable soldier. An unwinnable war. On the 100th anniversary of World War One.

WE THINK:  Iron Age returns from hiatus with a quintissentially Iron Age show: gutsy men in rugged situations, genuine acting and powerful drama, brilliant small-budget design, and issues of social justice and human dignity. John Doyle and Randy Wise’s company, founded in 1993, is moving into Philadelphia from Norristown, and James J. Christy Jr.’s new play continues their impressive record of premieres.

That ironically named great war is, of course, World War I, here explored from the German point of view. In 26 quick scenes, Christy follows a German Jewish soldier, Michael (Tom McGovern, in a heroic performance), who through years of combat is known as “the soldier who won’t die.” He can hurt, though, surviving not only ghastly wounds and nightmarish situations, but separation from his fiance Gisela (Kelsey Carroll), who’s told by conniving officer Cuttner (Jake Blouch, terrifically evil) that “you are not us.”

We see the seeds of rising German anti-Semitism, but also the evils of war from the losing side. “God would not let all of this be without a reason,” Michael says, trying to rationalize the horror. Christy Jr. also neatly includes glimpses of German leadership and how selfish individual decisions led to profound consequences.

A strong ensemble featuring Chris Coucill, Mitchell Bloom, Ned Pryce, and Loic Barnieu – all playing multiple roles – is expertly directed by James J. Christy Sr. (the playwright’s Barrymore Award for Lifetime Achievement Award-winner father). The Maas Space’s raw brick walls, hardwood floors, and rusted ironworks make a great set, all cleverly lit by Doyle to accentuate Michael’s epic experiences.

Iron Age is back!