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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Cry Havoc!

I was different from my classmates who were not veterans.— Stephan Wolfert
StephanWolfert. Photo by John Boccat.
Shakespeare's Richard III is not often categorized as an uplifitng experience. The sight of the deformed prince then king plotting mayhem and vengeance is one of the Bard's darker plays. But for Stephan Wolfert, AWOL from a seven-year military career as a U. S. medical and infantry officer, it was the catalyst to leave behind his working class background, alcoholic family and the expectations of a Lacrosse, Wisconsin upbringing to take a leap of faith. There in "Stump Town" Montana, population 4,000, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Wolfert experienced the epiphany that his life could be different; although he had never seen a live Shakespearean production, in Richard's terrifying anger the elements of his own story coalesced.

Shakespeare & Co.'s Bernstein Theatre can barely contain the energy of Wolfert's stunning one-man show Cry Havoc! It's his very intimate yet universal story of "everyman" as he struggles with personal demons engendered by a combat soldier's "wiring."

Wolfert enters barefoot onto a bare stage, without props. Lights up! No one can hide from him or each other. He engages the audience with a mixture of ferocity and sincerity as for two hours he drives home the story of military indoctrination and the reality of warfare while weaving various Shakespearean lines and soliloquies to emphasize his seamless artful narrative.

Wolfert's skill as a storyteller, his, at times, frenetic physicality and appealing personality underscore his arguments that the U.S. military is excellent at training its personnel as killing machines, but less successful at "de-cruiting" and integrating soldiers into civilian life. The system as now practiced produces PTSD-suffering veterans along with collaterally damaged families and society. Veterans of sometimes up to four or six tours of duty return home not knowing how to deal with physical and psychic mutilation.

Wolfert is not self-pitying, but rather grippingly realistic as he shares his and others' stories of loss, confusion and sometimes just utter stupidity in deconstructing the martial mentality. He relates anecdotes which break our heart and then he leaps across the stage to provide facts about a military system that mistreats minorities and women even while feeding them to the ever-widening maws of combat.

We march and fight along with Henry V's British foot soldiers, Norwegian Beserkers, the 369th all Black American infantry brigade and countless other combatants both famous and anonymous. Wolfert produces his own sound effects of trains, choppers, tracer rounds and fireworks to punctuate the effect that sound has in the world of warriors.

In spite of holding a dying friend in his arms, a tour in Afghanistan and a battle with the bottle, Wolfert appears an intelligent, thoughtful survivor. He received an MFA from Trinity Repertory Conservatory Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island. He is founding artistic director for Shakespeare and Veterans. Director Erik Tucker's N. Y. Bedlam Theatre Company is his home base where Wolfert acts as head of outreach. His dream to dance added to the creation of the military scenes of the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel Movin' Out.

Wolfert's powerful story-telling speaks to veterans as well as the extended community in hope of opening meaningful dialogue to heal and reintegrate — to break the culture of silence which enfolds battle-weary vets and their loved ones.
Though stifled as a child, Wolfert's creativity emerges as he dances his love of life — all of it — with a very responsive audience. He is mesmerizing and at the talk back almost the entire audience returned after a short intermission to share and respond to Wolfert's challenges to "What now?"

This is an exceptional and provocative piece of theatre – timely and therapeutic for vets and all of us. Wolfert says. "I gave up a career in the military for a life in the theater." Welcome Home ,Soldier! Personal Note: I usually dislike one man shows but I could see this extraordinary piece countless times to absorb and thrill at the artistry of the Wolfert/Tucker team.

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Cry Havoc! ny Stephan Wolfert
Directed by Erik Tucker
Cast: Stephan Wolfert
Running Time: Just under two hours with one intermission
Shakespeare & Company, Bernstein Theatre, Lenox, MA
From 8/3/16; closing 8/13/16. 
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at August 3 performance

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