In Tom Stoppard’s HEROES -- an adaptation of the Gerald Sibleyras’ “Le Vent de Peupliers” – World War I veterans Henri, Gustav and Philippe (John Dow, Wil Love, Carl Schurr) observe a flock of geese making their way south for the winter. The play is set in autumn, colored leaves are strewn upon the stage, the symbolism is clear—the geese, the weather, it’s a time of change, three men in the “fall” of their lives, not yet the “death” of winter and still hope that there will be a spring again. Afterall, the birds will return one day.
It’s a fitting image as HEROES, directed by Donald Hicken, is the last play to grace the stage at the Everyman Theater’s current location on Charles Street. It’s a fond farewell, a swan (geese?) song to a space that was originally designed to be a bowling alley as the Everyman relocates to what was once the old Town Theater on Fayette Street, now renovated and refurbished.
HEROES, with it’s bittersweet comic edge, it’s multiple themes, and the stellar performances of Everyman favorites Wil Love and Carl Schurr – as well as John Dow – is a fitting tribute to the kind and caliber of theater one has grown to expect at the Everyman.
Briskly paced at just over an hour and 40 minutes (including intermission), HEROES takes place on the terrace of a retired military veterans home in 1959. One senses immediately that these three men have known each other for way too long, though in some ways, no long enough, each man in his “assigned” seat, staring forward, musing upon a row of distant poplars that sway in the distance.
Men whose lives were once filled with war, adventure, and self-discovery, now find themselves reduced to skirmishes with the nuns who run the home, assessing signs of their own mortality (particularly Philippe, who passes out with increasing regularity) and generally driving each other crazy.
The play teems with comic moments… a solid marble statue of a dog that may or may not be actually moving, Gustav’s fisticuffs with a meddling nun, Henri’s encounter with a beautiful young lady teacher, and Philippe’s revelation about what his fainting-spell cries of “take it from the rear, captain!” really means…but it’s not all fun and games.
There’s news that the trio may be bumped from their beloved terrace, Philippe’s health is clearly declining, there’s a family death, and Gustav has become xenophobic. What can be done? Is there no escape? Should the trio make their way to Indochina as Gustav suggests or just cross a river and up to the poplars, that have acquired an almost mystical, fantastical quality…are they heaven? Are they home?
To find the answers to these questions, you’ll have to catch the play which continues its run at the Everyman, 1727 North Charles Street, now through December 2nd. For more information, for tickets, call 410-752-2208 or visit http://everymantheatre.org.