IN TOM STOPPARD’S “HEROES,” THREE OLD SOLDIERS DO NOT FADE, FADE AWAY — THEY WILL NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
Three old soldiers, fading, fading, fading away, are the dramatis personae of Czech-born British dramatist Tom Stoppard’s 2006 Laurence Olivier Award-winning play, HEROES, adapted from the 2003 comedy Le Vent des Peupliers (THE WIND IN THE POPLARS) by French playwright Gérald Sibleyras. But these three aging French World War I veterans, played with panache by the stellar trio of Jordan Smith, John Murphy, and David Ring in the current 2nd Ave. South Players production, will not go gentle into that good night.
Even now, in dog days of August of 1959, Smith as Henri, Murphy as Gustave, and Ring as Philippe are planning their last big breakout, from an old soldiers’ home where a five-foot nun, with a runny rose, named Sister Madelaine is She Who Must Be Obeyed. Their objective varies, but ultimately a breeze-blown grove of poplars on a nearby hill beckons like a siren from Greek mythology as the three old coots connive their Great Escape.
HEROES, which continues May 13-16 and 20-23 in Burning Coal Theatre Company‘s Meymandi Theatre at the Murphey School in Raleigh, NC, begins with Henri, Gustave, and then Philippe restlessly occupying rocking chairs on a deserted terrace of a home for veterans outside Paris. There is a low table and a large statue of a dog that looks like Napoléon Bonaparte pilfered it from a pharaoh’s tomb during his Egyptian campaign.
The three “heroes” of the Great War gripe about conditions at the home; grumble about a series of real and imagined slights by the staff, fellow residents, and family members who never visit; and fondly reminisce about their military service and the girls that they left behind. Their small talk cements their friendship and keeps loneliness at bay for one more minute, one more hour, one more day.
Jordan Smith is a gem as Henri, a bit of a fusspot but still clear-headed and genial company. John Murphy slips beneath the wily Gustave’s skin with ease, and simultaneously displays both his character’s surface charm and his deep-seated desire always to be in control of every situation. And David Ring as Philippe has a comic field day with his volatile character, who is conversing normally one moment and unconscious the next, due to the lingering effects of a piece of shrapnel in his skull.
Director Al Singer orchestrates this talkative play, so that the tides of human emotions ebb and flow smoothly but, most importantly, so that these tides carry the audience along with them. Watching Messrs. Smith, Murphy, and Ring bring their colorful and, at times, curmudgeonly characters fully to life is a real treat. HEROES deserves to play to full houses.
2nd Ave. South Players presents HEROES at 8:15 p.m. May 13-15 and 20-22 and 2 p.m. May 16 and 23 in Burning Coal Theatre Company‘s Meymandi Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $20 ($15 students, seniors, and Jewish Community Center members), except $10 Thursdays.
BOX OFFICE: 919/676-6170 (days), 919/803-6840 (nights and weekends), or https://secure.ujcfederations.org/ft2/form.html?__id=19649.
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by Robert W. McDowell
Robert McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review of Raleigh, NC. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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