The musings of three veterans in a home for the elderly in France in 1959 does not sound like ripe material for a comedy. Heroes, a play translated and adapted by Tom Stoppard, is not rip-roaring funny, but it offers humour with pathos.
The Driftwood Players production of Heroes opens Nov. 7 at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons.
“Each of the three men is broken,” said director David Short. “But they all look out for one another. The dynamics are key here.”
Henri (played by Bryan Carson) has a gimpy leg as a result of his World War I injury. Gustave (played by Mac Dodge) is agoraphobic as a result of lying on a battlefield for days. He cannot leave the residence without anxiety, but he enjoys watching the poplars on the hill swaying in the wind.
Philippe (played by Tim Anderson) has shrapnel lodged in his brain, causing him to pass out, sometimes in the middle of a sentence. They talk about all manner of things: birthday parties, funerals and women.
The fourth character in their comfortable group is a stone dog, Pierre, who somewhat eerily appears to move about the stage. Or is the movement only in Philippe’s delusions?
All three actors and the director bring professionalism to their parts.
Anderson was last seen in The Foursome where he played a show-stealing role; Carson was in On Golden Pond, among other local productions; and Dodge last appeared on the Gibsons stage in Mending Fences. Lately, the Equity actor has been performing major roles in Vancouver productions.
Short is juggling many theatre roles: in addition to this play he’s seeking the cast for a radio play to be performed closer to Christmas and he’s been working with youth theatre.
The renowned playwright Stoppard adapted Heroes from a French play by Gerald Sibleyras called The Wind in the Poplars, and it employs Stoppard’s ear for a good line. (Heroes, first performed in 2005, won an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.)
“It’s a well written play,” Dodge said.
It is also quirky.
“The men keep dreaming up alternatives to their lives,” Carson said, “whether to go to French Indo China together or have a picnic, for example. None of these will happen.”
Anderson pointed out that the play will be performed over the time of year that we honour veterans.
Driftwood has added a nostalgic flavour to the production by having chanteuse Beverly Nelson croon a few old wartime favourites that will set the mood.
Heroes opens on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in a pay-what-you-can performance. It runs Nov. 8, 9, 14, 15, 16 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Nov. 9 and 17. Tickets are $20, available at Gaia’s and Laedeli in Gibsons and the Visitor Centre in Sechelt. Tickets are also available at www.driftwoodplayers.ca.