FOG Theatre actors are admirable in Heroes
By Gérald Sibleyras. Translated and adapted by Tom Stoppard. Directed by Terence Kelly. Presented by the FOG Theatre at the PAL Theatre on Thursday, September 6. Continues until September 30
Heroes insults the elderly through both condescension and sentimentality. So why would the FOG, a newly formed company of older artists, choose Heroes, for its inaugural production? Maybe it’s because, for all of its faults, the play offers roles that appeal to actors.
In the script by Gérald Sibleyras, which has been translated and adapted by none other than Tom Stoppard, three French First World War vets sit on the terrace of their retirement home in the countryside.
Sibleyras presents these men as amusingly ineffectual. Henri goes into town to ogle schoolgirls and their teacher, but is a sexual innocent. The acerbic Gustave is agoraphobic. And Philippe keeps passing out because there’s shrapnel in his head.
These guys are pathetic but, in a sentimental twist—a kind of inadequate apology—they are also presented as heroic. They plot to escape, to journey to a distant hillside where they can feel the wind in the poplars. They long to fly south with the birds. This is the kind of writing that makes me want to hit French people.
Director Terence Kelly sometimes overplays the unsubtle hand that Sibleyras has dealt. When Gustave tells Henri, “No I’m not married anymore”, Kelly has actor John Innes deliver the line with unnatural ferocity.
That said, the performances are generally admirable. Michael Dobbin is affable as Henri, the sanest of the bunch. William Samples expertly taps into Philippe’s clownlike innocence. And Innes’s characterization of Gustave is marked by a compellingly quiet depth.
If only there were more depth—and respect—in the script.