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Old soldiers find a life together in 'Heroes'

Old soldiers find a life together in 'Heroes'

Sometimes even planning a simple stroll can be filled with adventure.
Such is the case in "Heroes," the tale of three World War I veterans living in an old-soldiers' home in rural France in 1959. The delightful Keen Company production, now on view at off-Broadway's Clurman Theatre, is filled with universal observations about friendship, optimism and finding joy in life.
Gerald Sibleyras' comedy, originally titled "Le Vent des Peupliers" ("The Wind in the Poplars"), first played to acclaim in France, then was translated into English by Tom Stoppard.
Three accomplished actors portray these comrades, men who have each been damaged in different ways by their years of war service.
Jonathan Hogan brings a gentle humor to Phillippe, whose two friends regularly reawaken him whenever his possibly worsening brain injury causes him to pass out while sitting, standing or even talking.
Tony Award winner John Cullum is excellent as the seemingly good-natured Henri, maimed in one leg and who functions as the leader of the trio.
The robust Gustave (a hilarious Ron Holgate, obviously enjoying himself) is trying to hide a war-related condition. With erect military bearing, he issues blustery, often witty, occasionally curmudgeonly opinions as if they were proclamations.
The trio meet daily on their outside terrace, where they relax, read and discuss life, regularly complaining about the food and the nun who runs the home. All were decorated heroes in the war, and they recall past times that were filled with action and women.
Over the course of August, the men discover an attractive new neighbor, do a bit of identity-switching to deceive one's sister and even dissuade a comrade from a brief, hysterical murder plot.
Under Carl Forsman's deft direction, the play becomes increasingly farcical as the three plan a daring escape to avoid having to share their private terrace with "every loony in the place."
Possible destinations range wildly _ from a nearby picnic to anywhere in Indochina to a stand of poplar trees, which they can see far away on a hilltop, "there where the wind blows."
Sibleyras and Stoppard have written amusing dialogue for the trio that gradually reveals the essential character of each man. Describing how he extended his "daily constitutional," Henri half-boasts, "I chanced my arm and launched a surprise attack on the cemetery." When Henri becomes a wet blanket about the escape plan, Gustave appeals to him by saying, "One must strive a little for the epic, old boy."
Beowulf Boritt has designed a charming, ivy-covered stone terrace. Josh Bradford's lighting design enhances the set and the retired soldiers look very spiffy in Theresa Squire's elegant suits and blazers.
The play runs through April 11.


Updated : 2021-04-14 15:51 GMT+08:00