A SON AT THE FRONT incidental music for play      

Based on Edith Wharton's poignant novel about World War I, A Son at the Front explores the effects of war on the family and friends of a young man who is eager to do his duty. Allen Frantzen has enlarged on Wharton's themes, crafting a story of an American home front torn by divisions over the nation's role in the raging European conflict, and a family torn by disagreement about a son's destiny.

Set in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in 1916 and 1917, the action plays out against the many strains that roiled public life: conflicts between rich and poor, capitalists and socialists, war resisters and a growing tide of anti-German feeling, Native Americans and neighbors with roots in Europe. A Son at the Front tells of the fate of a young man who signs up to be an ambulance driver in France even before America's formal entry into the war, and who subsequently enters the fighting. Meanwhile, his family and friends struggle to piece together their partial and differing understandings of his actions, his whereabouts, and his motivations, viewing events through conflicting perceptions of the young man himself and their own aspirations for him.

Wharton's novel, begun just as the war was coming to a close, reminds us of what war destroys but also forces us to think about what war creates. The son's personal ideals, his secret love, and his reluctance to reveal his whole self to those at home merge to form a study in the mystery of human personality and the veils that divide families, friends, and lovers.

Incorporating elements of a real Oklahoma family's experience, and using actual letters sent by young soldiers from France, A Son at the Front features an original musical score by composer John Frantzen. The production is directed by Matthew Ozawa, resident assistant director at Lyric Opera of Chicago and assistant director of Chicago Opera Theater's recent "La Tragédie de Carmen."

35 minutes

Allen Frantzen, playwright

Anthenaeum Theatre, Chicago, IL June 5-7, 2009