By Lynn Venhaus
An idealist, pragmatist and a fence sitter want to walk out of a military convalescent hospital…
In “Heroes,” an amiable French comedy that’s been translated into English by the esteemed playwright Tom Stoppard, there’s drama and absurdity mixed in, of course.
Gerald Siblevras’ play, “Le Vent des Peupliers,” which is set in 1959, was first performed in London in 2005, winning an Olivier Award for best new comedy. It made it to Broadway two years later, with Richard Benjamin, Len Cariou and George Segal as Henri, Gustave, and Philippe.
In Albion Theatre’s inaugural production, three acting heavyweights play the disparate characters – David Wassilak, Will Shaw and Isaiah Di Lorenzo. The award-winning veterans have been honored for their work — Wassilak has awards from St. Louis Theater Circle, Shaw has AFL’s Theatre Mask Awards and Di Lorenzo has both Circle and TMAs.
The trio deliver their customary nuanced work, demonstrating their ease with each other and their finely-tune rhythms. The wounded veterans spend their days on a terrace in a sanitarium, having served in one World War and been through another from afar. They dream of escaping this tedium.
We recognize the characters they talk about – we can conjure up images of annoying fellow residents, the help – and fear Sister Madeleine, just like they do. We accept the stone dog as their companion.
Shaw drolly delivers many of the best lines as the grumpy agoraphobic Gustave. Di Lorenzo uses his nimble physicality well, for Phillippe has fainting spells and seizures. And Wassilak believably projects a lonely heart trying to stay positive.
The show is deftly directed by Robert Ashton, who is also the founder of the new theater company that specializes in mainly plays from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The men bicker, but still show affection and concern for each other. Without their well-worn camaraderie, it would just be three guys killing time, but they add human touches to make us care about them.
The small black box space at the Kranzberg works well for such a small show. Brad Slavik’s set design, Tracey Newcombe’s costume design, Nathan Shroeder’s lighting design and Robin Weatherall’s sound design help bring the production to life.
With dashes of “Waiting for Godot” and “The Gin Game,” and some carping like “The Odd Couple,” “Heroes” wears its heart on its sleeve and is a paean to dreamers everywhere.
Time passes for all of us. These three fine performers show us its best to not go it alone.
The Albion Theatre is presenting “Heroes” for three weekends starting Sept. 23-25, then Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, and wrapping up Oct. 7-9, at the Kranzberg Arts Center’s Black Box Theatre, 501 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis. For more information, visit AlbionTheatreSTL.org.
Robert Ashton was a guest on my podcast, PopLifeSTL.com, on Sept. 24. Here is that link, along with my co-host Carl “The Intern” Middleman:
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.