Stalag 17, after almost two years on the stage, is still kicking, not to mention kneeing, slugging, and buffooning. Concerned with the untimely story of Americans in a German prisoner-of-war camp, its permanence and deserved popularity can best be explained by a combination of the all-male cast's exuberant performance and the co-authors' exciting presentation of their World War II experiences.
The play is itself a blend of what writers Donald Vevan and Edmund Trzcinski call "comedy melodrama." The comic element is of an earthy, physical sort, inversely proportional to the supply of women. But it convulsed more of the audience than it embarrassed. Although not so funny as Mr. Roberts, Stalag 17 has an added element of melodrama. Tension arises when the prisoners' sabotage and escape plots fail with crushing regularity, making it apparent that one amongst them is a German informer. Their efforts to discover the culprit (they had a better word for him) provide grim and gripping moments between the horseplay.
Almost any of the 16 U.S. prisoners could be the ringer, and almost all of them are characterized in vignettes, deft without depth. A deeper probe is unnecessary, however, as the Americans are a typical Hollywood fox-hole cross-section, more like able than complicated not a Keefer in the crowd. Hence, playing the parts poses few problems, and the cast is even better than need-be. It is led by old hand George Tobias, who portrays the rollicking bulk called Stosh, and Douglas Watson, who does well by surly Sefton. Comedy bits are added by Jerry Jarrett and others.