Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Opening This Week: HEROES at Heartland Theatre Company

The winter theatre season kicks into high gear this week with the opening of Heroes, a Tom Stoppard translation of a French play called Le Vent des Peupliers by GĂ©rald Sibleyras.

Sibleyras wrote his Peupliers in 2002, and Stoppard did his version in 2005. The original British production, which starred Richard Griffiths, John Hurt and Ken Stott, picked up the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy for its successful run.

The French title means "the wind in the poplars," and that is important in the play, which involves three long-retired military men, all veterans of World War I, who wile away their time on the terrace of a home for old soldiers somewhere in the French countryside. From their terrace, they can just see -- sometimes -- a stand of poplars on a faraway hill, and they dream of escaping from their terrace and the insufferable life of controlling nuns and tepid soup. They all survived the horrors of a world war. But how will they get through yet another birthday party?

Stoppard has said that he changed the title because British producers were worried that The Wind in the Poplars sounded too much like The Wind in the Willows. He's also said he would've gone with Veterans if that hadn't been already taken. But if you've seen the play... Well, Heroes is just exactly right. The three gentlemen at the center of the play are heroes, just for finding a way to use lively humor and a gentle imagination to get them from August to September.

Photo by Jesse Folks
Taken at Ewing Manor
For Heartland Theatre, Illinois Wesleyan Professor Emeritus John Ficca directs Joe Penrod, George Peterson-Karlan and Todd Wineburner in the roles played by Hurt, Stott and Griffiths, respectively. Left to right in the promotional shot at right are Penrod, Wineburner and Peterson-Karlan, posing at Ewing Manor in Bloomington, a wonderful local example of French chateau style.

Performances of Heroes begin on Thursday, February 12, with a special Pay What You Can preview at 7:30 pm. The regular run begins on Friday, with performances on the 13th and 14th, the 19th through the 22nd and February 26th through March 1.

A panel discussion is scheduled after the matinee on the 22nd, with Illinois State University theatre professors Will Daddario and Joanne Zerdy on hand to talk about the connection between theatre and war. The after-show discussion is open to the public and free of charge.

For showtimes and reservation information, visit the Heartland Theatre website.

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